Going after lawbreakers - Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Commission to investigate entities which sell to minors
Tyrone Reid, Senior Staff Reporter
The State agency charged with regulating gambling is to investigate the operations of entities that sell to children. Following a recent Sunday Gleaner probe which showed some entities selling to children including students in uniform, Derek Peart, executive director of the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Commission (BGLC), declared the matter to be "very serious".
"We are going to deal specifically with the named locations. This is a case for an arrest. We could never take them (illegal sales to minors) lightly ... . These are licensed premises. That is the major concern that I have. Not only that, it is all to do with lotteries," said Peart.
He added: "It is a serious problem. This exposé will help the commission regarding sensitisation of the public ... (to) the fact that infractions are taking place."
Peart also revealed that the top brass of the commission met with the police high command and discussed how they could work together in the fight against gambling by minors. The details of a memorandum of understanding between the commis-sion and the police are now being ironed out.
Compulsory ID request
Meanwhile, as a result of what was unearthed by the undercover exercise, Peart said the commission is forced to consider making the request for an ID a mandatory part of gambling transactions.
"It is something that will have to be seriously considered," he said.
The BGLC is a statutory body established in 1975 under the provisions of the Betting, Gaming & Lotteries Act to regulate and control the operations of betting and gaming and the conduct of lotteries in Jamaica.
Peart told The Sunday Gleaner that the June 2010 amendment to the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Act to include punitive sanctions for those who allow minors to gamble was an indication of how serious the commission and the Government views the matter of underage gambling.
However, no one has been charged since the amendment was made prohibiting minors from gambling.
According to Peart, a survey was commissioned in 2007 and the results showed that underage gambling in Jamaica was a problem.
"In Jamaica, it was a fairly large percentage of youth who were found to be gamblers," said Peart.
Huge social problem
The Jamaica Child and Adole-scent Gambling Survey referenced by Peart was funded by the BGLC and commissioned by Rise Life Management Services in an attempt to establish desired baseline measures as it relates to gambling among adolescents 10-19 years old.
The survey, which defined gambling as games played for money, noted that gambling was pervasive in the society and virtually all youth 10-19 years are aware of same.
"Of the sample, just over two-thirds (68 per cent) reported having been exposed to such games, a half (52 per cent) actually had the opportunity to play and the majority availed themselves of this opportu-nity, resulting in 45 per cent of the sample having actually gambled at some stage.
"Having once gambled, the majority continue gambling and it was approximately two-thirds (67.1 per cent) of this subgroup who were identified as current gamblers, having played a game for money in the last 12 months," read a section of the gambling survey's executive summary.
The reported added that the "high awareness and exposure to gambling is not surprising as opportunities to gamble were reported as being at all the central places in his/her life, whether at home, at school or on the street".
Richard Henry, programme manager for addiction, counselling and support services at Rise Life Management Services - a non-governmental organisation that focuses on providing programmes for at risk youth - reiterated that the data collected in 2007 showed that underage gambling in Jamaica is not a thing to be scoffed at.
"From the data, it showed that almost one in four young people have a problem or are at risk of developing a problem," said Henry.
Rise Life targets four schools per quarter with its prevention programme, said Henry.
The NGO uses an eight-week gambling prevention lesson plan that is taught to the students to increase awareness, examine consequences and explore alternatives.
Henry also told The Sunday Gleaner that during the lessons with the students, the children often tell the Rise Life team members the locations that they visit to purchase the various lotteries.
"I was hoping that someone would have done that (investigation) a long time ago. We have known that it is an issue," he said.