Editors' Forum | Help for the addicts - BGLC spending millions to prevent, reduce gambling addiction
Concerns over a possible increase in the number of Jamaicans becoming addicted to gambling have spurred the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Commission (BGLC) into action.
The BGLC is spending some $14 million annually in a responsible gaming programme spearheaded by the RISE/Life Management Services in an effort to reduce the cases of gambling addiction across the island.
Executive Director of the BGLC Vitus Evans last Thursday told a Gleaner Editors' Forum that the partnership with RISE/Life is indicative of the level of commitment of the commission to ensuring that responsible gaming is being practised locally.
"What they (RISE/Life) have done is that they have their own programme. They have actually made responsible gaming a particular aspect of their own programme and present that as a budget to us, and we fund that 100 per cent," said Evans.
In addition to working with RISE/Life, the BGLC has launched other initiatives to prevent gambling addiction. These include having monitoring officers in gaming lounges.
"In those lounges, you can't go and put cash in, you have to go and actually get the funds on the cards, which you then actually use to put in the machine. All of that is monitored in terms of the amount of money that is spent on that card," said Evans.
He told the Gleaner editors and reporters that underage gaming is a major concern for the BGLC, given reports in the past that there was a growing gambling problem among Jamaican adolescents.
According to a Jamaica Child and Adolescent Gambling Survey, which was conducted by Hope Enterprise Limited on behalf of RISE/Life in 2007, one out of every five adolescents, or about 20 per cent of those aged between 10 to 19, were either problem gamblers or were at risk of becoming serious gamblers.
UNDERAGE GAMBLING DECLINING
But Director of Licensing and Registration at the BGLC Maurice Thompson believes the number of children engaged in gambling is on the decline.
"We don't get the similar number of reports of kids being engaged in gambling since then, and our licensees are now even more aware that they could lose their licence if it comes to the commission's knowledge that they allow [underage] persons to gamble," said Thompson.
He said that Jamaica is the only English-speaking country in the region that has a responsible gaming code and programme.
Corporate Affairs and Communi-cation Manager at BGLC, Jeanette Lewis, noted that the commission has also implemented a responsible gaming code of conduct.
"So there are conditions to the licence that address responsible gaming. So you have things like the appropriate signage that has to be in place to prevent underage gaming," Lewis told the forum.
"We encourage the gaming operators, especially the gaming lounges, to ensure that all their team members are trained by RISE/Life in the basics of responsible gaming. So that is mandatory and that has to happen," added Lewis.