Trinidad and Tobago: Senator Paul Richards urged the Government to soon address the phenomenon of online gambling

INDEPENDENT Senator Paul Richards urged the Government to soon address the phenomenon of online gambling, speaking on Friday in the Senate on the debate on the Gambling (Gaming and Betting) Control Bill 2021 which regulates traditional forms of gambling such as casinos.

"That online aspect as I've said before is something that needs to be contemplated and dealt with very, very quickly.

"I haven't even spoken about the issue of Bitcoin. You can go on your phone, including minors, and have betting apps and gambling apps which pay in Bitcoin which can be moved in that online environment without any regulation in Trinidad and Tobago." He said the bill referred to "remote betting" but this not was enough to stop it happening.

"As it stands in TT we know that online betting and online gambling is taking place.

"It needs to be managed expeditiously in TT. We may be finding ourselves putting law in place to deal with an industry in a physical sense that has has largely gone online. What we'll be doing in that case is spinning top in mud and being ten years behind the game that has primarily gone online, according to the data presently available in most circles."

Richards said the world now lives online.

"The kinds of money that's being transferred between gamers on your television, on your phone, through the PS4, through the X-Box, is astounding. It is so easy when you look at the data to realise how much of the underworld is using the loopholes in jurisdictions like TT that are not effectively regulated and don't have the proper oversight mechanism as is contemplated by the Gambling Commission in this bill to really deal with those issues effectively."

Richards said an unregulated gaming industry was "extremely dangerous" and could be inhabited by "some pretty dark characters."

He feared that operators of gambling machines could be duping their customers, especially in an unregulated industry, a fear that was fed by his insights sitting on the Joint Select Committee on Gambling.

"One of the things that really surprised me and shocked me in sitting through these committees was how technically advanced this industry is. For example, the software that goes into these machines can be so easily manipulated to scheme and trick consumers into thinking they are winning, when it's really duping them." He said, in an unregulated environment, there are no controls over such practices such as by random, monthly inspections.

"So it is open season for corruption and malfeasance from operators who may tend to go that way. Do we really want that for Trinidad and Tobago? I really don't think so. I think we have to be careful in allowing an industry like this to continue without any effective regulation."

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