Gambling away our future
Despite the threat of a maximum fine of one million dollars or three months in prison, sellers of Cash Pot and other games of chance are still selling lotteries to children without asking for any proof of age.
The latest instalment in The Sunday Gleaner stealth-shopper series showed that even children in school uniforms will be sold 'a ticket to their dreams'.
Previous stealth-shopper investigations showed that minors easily purchase alcohol and cigarettes, even in their school uniform.
With the help of two 17-year-old students from a Corporate Area-based technical high school, our news team tested the vigilance of gaming agents at five different locations.
One teen was in uniform, while the other sported a pair of jeans pants and a T-shirt.
The investigation unearthed that sellers are not very vigilant when the teens are in street clothes.
Brian George, president and CEO of Supreme Ventures Limited (SVL), condemned the sale of tickets to any minor but argued that it would be difficult for him to determine if a teenager in street clothes is 17 or 18 years old.
The lottery company's president told The Sunday Gleaner that roughly 500,000 people play the various games every day at the approximately 1,100 agents across the island and as a result asking everyone to produce an ID would be impractical.
When asked about making it mandatory that players produce an ID for lottery purchases, George said: "It is a very valid question. It is very difficult, not saying impossible, for the operator at a lottery terminal given the volume of transactions."
While not committing SVL or its agents to asking for an ID as a mandatory part of the transaction, George said when the lottery company's agents licenses are being renewed they are reminded that they are not to sell to minors.
George added that the minors who bamboozle agents and gamble illegally must bear some of the blame whenever the system is breached.
"We have to place a certain moral responsibility on people that come to the terminal."
Still, George said the company would redouble its efforts to plug the holes in the gaming industry's leaky security checks. "I will certainly ensure that my people understand the consequences of their actions and will reinforce our message of no underage gambling," he said.
A vice-principal from a prominent Corporate Area technical high school, told our news team that a few years ago students use to cut school to place their bets and purchase their tickets.
Although the gambling during school hours has diminished, the vice-principal, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said students are still being caught in the act of illegal gambling.
"Sometimes we go on the road and catch them. It's mostly the boys, you hardly find girls doing it," she said.
The senior educator said many poor parents are not opposed to their underage children gambling illegally because a winning ticket eases the financial strain they face each day.
She said many children play the games of chance because they are trying to provide for themselves.
"The reality is that some of the students send themselves to school. Some of them work on the weekends. It is not something they will tell, but you would find out," she said, as she referenced a young man who worked in a funeral home to offset his educational and other living expenses.