Gaming a double-edged sword, says Evans
While the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Act, the legislation which governs Jamaica's gaming industry, makes it very clear that persons under the age of 18 should not participate in gambling activities, the unfortunate reality is that technology and other factors are making it easier for them to so do.
For this reason, Vitus Evans, executive director of the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Commission (BGLC), last Tuesday, described gaming, or gambling as it is commonly called, as a doubled-edged sword.
"This activity provides significant benefits to our economy, while, at the same time, having some negative associations," he told those gathered at the awards ceremony for the Youth Prevention Gambling All-Island Poster Competition 2017.
HELPFUL WITH DOWNSIDES
"Gaming enterprises provide employment and legitimate income for thousands of Jamaicans and revenue for the Government ... The downside of gambling faces us when there are no counter measures in place to minimise or eliminate the negative impacts," Evans admitted to the audience comprised mainly of school children.
He went on to explain that the responsible gaming programme funded by the BGLC is a critical aspect of the effective management and regulation of the local gaming industry. Since 2005, it has funded the comprehensive training, prevention and treatment programme implemented by RISE Life Management Services to address the potentially devastating downside to this range of recreational activities.
No easing up on teenage gambling - BGLC executive director
Jamaica's responsible gaming programme is now recognised as a best practice in other gaming jurisdictions around the region, but Vitus Evans, the Betting Gaming and Lotteries Commission (BGLC) executive director, warned that the country should not relax its clampdown on teenage gambling.
"One of the sharp contrasts of the current generation of Jamaican youth when compared to earlier generations is the prevalence of inducements and the ease of access for them to participate in gambling activities. We know that today's generation is highly digitally oriented and already exposed to subtle inducements to engage in gaming behaviour, which can lead to them becoming more directly involved gamblers," he pointed out.
For this reason, the Youth Gambling Prevention All-Island Poster Competition takes on greater importance, being an integral part of the comprehensive programme of activities that reinforces the pitfalls of underage gambling. It encourages them to make the right choice in order to lead successful lives as adults.
ADULTS PLAY CRITICAL ROLE
While the poster competition theme - 'I am ambitious and motivated, so hear my voice, Underage Gambling is the wrong choice' - is targeted at youths, there is a need to reiterate to adults the very critical role they must play in protecting children and teaching them that gaming, in any of its forms, is meant to be entertainment that is very carefully enjoyed.
To this end, Evans had a warning for the adults who gamble.
"Inducing a child to participate in gambling by doing a seemingly innocent act of sending a child on an errand to buy a lottery ticket, a horse racing bet, is a no-no!," he declared.
"Technology is set to take Jamaica's gaming landscape through some profound changes in the form of online gaming. Programmes such as this give us the opportunity to renew our commitment to protect Jamaica's youth, teach them and guide them down the path that enables them to responsibly enjoy all the pleasures and activities that life presents to them. This way, they can lead full, fulfilled and successful lives and be positive contributing members of their communities and our country."