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BGLC struggles to net big fish in gambling underworld

Regulator believes those collared getting off too easily

Published:Thursday | October 6, 2022 | 12:10 AMKimone Francis/Senior Staff Reporter
Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Commission Executive Director Vitus Evans says unregulated players in the gaming industry are oftentimes tipped off ahead of crackdown.
Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Commission Executive Director Vitus Evans says unregulated players in the gaming industry are oftentimes tipped off ahead of crackdown.

Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Commission (BGLC) Executive Director Vitus Evans is batting for tougher sentences for unregulated operators in the gaming industry, arguing that judges have been too soft. Evans said that because of this, the...

Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Commission (BGLC) Executive Director Vitus Evans is batting for tougher sentences for unregulated operators in the gaming industry, arguing that judges have been too soft.

Evans said that because of this, the enforcement arm of the BGLC has had to bypass those at the bottom of the illegal gaming chain in pursuit of “the big fish”.

However, that quest is yet to yield any result as major players are most times informed of investigations and are able to shutter activities beforehand.

“Prosecution hasn’t worked too well for us because sometimes the courts haven’t actually taken the issue as seriously as we would like. We’re trying to have discussions with them,” Evans said during a Gleaner Editors’ Forum on Wednesday.

“If you were to arrest them and then you take them before the courts again, whether it is culture or whatever, the judge will say, ‘Well, this little lady with five children, what am I going to charge her?’ So, I mean, the sentence is really minuscule in that respect, so that is part of the problem we face,” he explained.

Evans said that the major players in the gaming underworld have proven to be sophisticated, resulting in a drought in enforcers’ hunt.

“When we think we’ve actually found them and are about to move in, sometimes information leaks out and then they are still not caught,” he said.

Despite this, the BGLC head has insisted that the unregulated industry is on the decline, citing a “significant growth” in the gambling industry.

For financial year 2021-2022, government-generated revenues were in excess of $9 billion – a 20.8 per cent increase over the previous year. The revenue was generated on the back of industry operators racking up sales of $179.98 billion – a 42 per cent increase over the previous year.

Evans said that with the advent of online gaming, there has been “significant” reduction in the unregulated industry.

He said, too, that an increase in the number of lottery operators, creating easy access for customers, has also contributed to this.

Cash Pot, a popular offering by Supreme Ventures Limited, was identified as the main game fuelling the illegal industry.

He said that previously, the odds offered by illegal operators proved to be better than what was being offered by official operators.

With added competition in the market, Evans said that that has caused odds to be streamlined, plugging the vacuum created for illegal operators.

He could not quantify or estimate the size or value of the unregulated industry but said that research is to be undertaken on the issue.

“At one time, it was common to say that we believe that the illegal operators were maybe twice the size of the legal operators, but that is all anecdotal. We have no figures, and we haven’t had any research done to actually justify [the size], but we know that it has reduced.

“What we feel compensates for that is we see the rise in the legal numbers from what we are getting now,” he said.

kimone.francis@gleanerjm.com