Fri | Sep 22, 2017

Cyber gambling fears - Updated law needed to deal with illegal online betting

Published:Sunday | June 11, 2017 | 6:00 AMChristopher Serju

 

With the explosion in the digital world in recent years, the local entity tasked with preventing illegal gambling, the Betting Gaming and Lotteries Commission (BGLC), is finding it even more difficult to clamp down on persons who run illicit operations.

Established in 1975 - with a mandate to regulate and control the operations of betting, gaming, and the conduct of lotteries in Jamaica - advances in technology, legislation that dates back to 1965, and a serious shortage of human resources, have combined to make the task of the BGLC that much harder.

 

DIFFICULT TO REGULATE

 

Given that The Betting Gaming and Lotteries Act, speaks to only brick-and-mortar-type operations, the BGLC is finding it hard to clamp down on those who operate in cyberspace.

"Right now, sport betting is done online, but casino-type games are not permitted. So the commission is working on legislation that allows us to regulate that component of the industry," Noel Bacquie director of the enforcement division of the BGLC told The Sunday Gleaner in a recent interview.

"And as you can appreciate, with it not being a brick and mortar there are certain challenges that we have to address with legislation. So we have to make sure we get it right," added Bacquie as he warned that protecting Jamaicans who venture out into cyberspace to gamble would put greater demand on the BGLC's resources.

 

ADDRESSING THE CHALLENGES

 

"It's not like an investigation where an enforcement officer can go into a shop and say to youngster, 'You look like you're 15 and not to be allowed to be in here' and run him. In the cyber world, whether you are on your phone or your laptop or you are at home. How do we address all those challenges? So the legislation we are developing right now will address some of those concerns," added Bacquie.

He noted that the updated The Betting Gaming and Lotteries Act, would also bring the operations of popular bingo games under the remit of BGLC.

The BGLC is also responsible for issuing licences and collecting related fees, taxes and other contributions of behalf of the Government.

"All persons who want to get into the industry have to go through a due diligence exercise and be deemed fit and proper. So we do background investigations on all applicants that want to get into the industry, and, of course, my team of investigators determines the fit and proper status," said Bacquie.

After clearing the fit-and-proper status hurdle, applicants must demonstrate some degree of technical competency in relation to the operations in which they plan to invest as well as adequate financial resources.

christopher.serju@gleanerjm.com