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BGLC to regularise i-gaming market

Published:Wednesday | May 28, 2014 | 12:00 AM

The Betting Gaming & Lotteries Commission (BGLC) is laying the groundwork to open up the market for Internet-based gambling, or i-gaming, as well as telephone and text betting.

BGLC executive director Andral 'Jack' Shirley says these are avenues through which the gaming sector can expand.

Essentially, proposed changes to the laws to accommodate i-gaming would be catching up to the market - as Shirley acknowledged - and allow for the collection of taxes that are currently escaping the net. The BGLC is awaiting approval to proceed with drafting of legislation.

"I-gaming is a rapidly expanding sector of the industry in which Jamaica is not legally participating," said the regulator.

"It is taking place and Jamaica ... is not benefitting from the taxes that this activity attracts," he said.

Internet gaming is a "widespread practice" in at least 70 jurisdictions worldwide, in Europe and at least three American states. The United States is considering opening up the industry to all states, Shirley said.

As for phone betting services, local lottery company Supreme Ventures Limited has announced plans to develop a mobile payment system to make it easier to place wagers or buy lottery tickets on the go.

Supreme Ventures is yet to create the platform to facilitate mobile bets.

The service may require approval of the central bank which regulates epayment systems.

Shirley, in a speech delivered to the Rotary Club of St Andrew, noted that difficulties can arise in regulating online gaming.

Tax collection

"As a result, some countries focus on tax collection rather than ensuring the game is being played fairly through proper regulations," he said.

Nevertheless: "Internet gaming is big business and places like Macau and Singapore are reaping immense benefits."

Macau recorded gaming revenue in excess of US$350 billion bolstered by internet gaming for fiscal year 2013, the BGLC executive director said.

For Jamaica, the spin-offs are in market expansion and job creation. Smartphone-enabled gaming would be more attractive to young Jamaicans, and is an opportunity to be tapped to help ease the country's economic woes, he said.

tameka.gordon@gleanerjm.com