Lotto Company granted go-ahead to expand ‘gambling ring’

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Having complained of sagging profits, the Guyana Lottery Company has been handed a five-year renewable contract that allows it to introduce new games into the country using Video Lottery Teller Machines such as casino slot machines and online gambling.

This is as local entrepreneurs complain bitterly, and have even moved to the courts.

Finance Minister Winston Jordan on Monday confirmed the renewable five-year agreement as he was questioned over reports questioning the legality of gambling machines being used at popular night spots locally, despite the establishment not being the holder of a casino licence.
Gambling is prohibited in Guyana under the Prevention of Gambling Act, which incidentally does provide for issuance of special casino licences.

To date, there has been only one operational licence issued — for the Princess Hotel and Casino, while the Guyana Marriott is earmarked.

Guyana’s laws limit the number of casino licences that can be issued, and local hotelier Clifton Bacchus of Sleepin Hotel, along with his investors, has in recent months lamented bitterly the heavy-handed approach by Government in withholding the issuance of a casino licence to his establishment.

Reports surfaced on Monday in the local media of three entertainment spots where dozens of casino machines are in operation—machines identical in nature to the ones operated in the Princess Casino.

Guyana’s Finance Minister, when confronted with the reports on Monday, confirmed that the Guyana Lottery Company had given an undertaking together with Government—in the contract that was renewed this year—to introduce new games.

According to Jordan, the contract was renewed after the Lotto Company complained over the traditional annual renewal of its licence.

The Finance Minister, in emphasising that a valid five-year contract had been signed between the Lotto Company and the Government, through to 2021, said the contract allows for the introduction of a range of new games by the lottery company.

Jordan told media operatives that the company did some analysis and determined “some of the games were sagging some of the returns on the games.”

According to Jordan, “They do have a contract for 2017 to 2021…they do have a contract that involves them introducing new games and new games that will utilize internet also.”

As a result, the new deal with the Lottery Company will introduce new games, including online gambling; and according to Jordan, Government will in return continue to receive 24 per cent of the proceeds “together with some other sweeteners.”

The Minister did not elaborate on the other sweeteners in the agreement between the Ministry of Finance and the Guyana Lottery Company, a subsidiary of Canadian Bank Note (CBN).

Under the previous arrangement with the Government, while the Lotto Company did pay 24 per cent of the proceeds to the state, its contract to operate the gambling games across the country was renewed on an annual basis.

Jordan, in defending the Lottery Company’s five-year deal, lamented the previous arrangement as a ‘shoe string’ arrangement.

Questions had surfaced over the legality of the machines operating in the city—illegal under the Prevention of Gambling Act.

The Gaming Authority meanwhile, by way of a public missive on Monday evening attempted also to clear the air and provided details of the arrangement under which the Lottery Company is currently operating.

According to that authority, in the missive inked by its Chairman, Roysdale Forde, Canadian Bank Note, through its agents the Guyana Lottery Company, was operating in Guyana under an agreement crafted by the Government of Guyana and that agreement “has made provision for the right of the Guyana Lottery Company to operate Video Lottery Terminals (VLTs) in Guyana.”

The Gaming Authority, under the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Act of 2009 and Amendment 2016, has been identified as the Supervisory Authority for casinos and lotteries.

According to Forde, the Gaming Authority, in its capacity as a Supervisory Authority, had advised the Lottery Company to await rollout of the enactment of legislation and formulation of regulations to guide the operation’s machines.

The gambling games previously operated by the Guyana Lottery Company through its arrangement with Government include ‘Lotto Supa 6,’ ‘Lucky 3,’ ‘Daily Millions,’ and ‘Draw De Line’; along with a range of popular ‘scratch’ games.

Its ring of gambling games has now been expanded to include those using the VLT machines—machines akin to the casino slot machines, also referred to as the ‘one-arm bandit.

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