By Alison Lowe
Nassau Guardian Business Editor
NASSAU, Bahamas -- The Bahamas is “10 to 15 years ahead of the curve” in the region with respect to legal gaming and associated regulation, but will likely have to very soon consider the implications of illegal gaming in the “web shop” industry if it is to avoid the “very painful downsides” of unregulated gambling, an international gaming and financial crime regulation specialist has warned.
Kleo Pappas, director of the International Governance and Risk Institute, told Guardian Business that he expects that illegal gaming is a topic that will arise during the forthcoming “Bahamas Gaming Forum: Fostering Growth, Transparency and Social Responsibility”, which the institute is hosting at Atlantis resort next week.
A UK-based entity that specializes in organizing and running financial crime prevention training programs, consultations and gaming regulation seminars, the International Governance and Risk Institute’s forum will bring together regional officials and firms navigating the challenges of managing gaming regulation in an environment of evolving technology, while remaining competitive.
Among those expected to attend from throughout the region, the US, Canada and Australia are casino managers, money laundering reporting officers, gaming regulators, law enforcement officers, compliance officers and international firms seeking access to emerging markets for gaming.
The event will be opened by Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcombe and Prime Minister Perry Christie, and will see speakers focus on issues such as the growth and regulation of Caribbean gaming, anti-money laundering, essentials of gaming law, customer due diligence for online gaming and “cheat intelligence”.
Pappas said that recently-tabled legislation in The Bahamas which would allow mobile gaming on resort campuses throughout The Bahamas certainly raises interesting new questions for regulators who might seek to ensure this type of activity is being managed in a responsible and legal manner.
“Without a doubt, because having mobile gaming is gambling remotely [it raises new challenges]. You’re not going to a resort, you’re not snapped on a camera or anything like that. And socially -- and I don’t really know because I haven’t been immersed in this country’s regulations -- I am not sure how they will effectively limit that to on-campus.
“If you are on the side of the fence that doesn’t want gaming to become prevalent, there is the question of how those on the other side of the fence may view (mobile gaming) as the thin end of the wedge.”
Pappas said that The Bahamas is a model for other jurisdictions that may be interested in pursuing gaming to a greater degree, but indicated that the jurisdiction may eventually have some catching up to do with respect to dealing with the “numbers” sector.
“I think for The Bahamas what you have going for you, though, is that you are in a place where a lot of jurisdictions are going to be in 10 to 15 years from now.
“You are further along this evolution of gaming and financial regulations; your financial intelligence unit is very well run and organized. There are fail-safe measures in place for the financial services industry which wouldn’t take a lot of effort to modify them for the gaming sector.
“But if this is something that is happening illegally, I don’t think it’s going to be a very long time before they have to look at it. And by all means look at something like they have in the UK, put the emphasis very much on the gaming operators to put money into a pot to make sure there is a social awareness, that people realize the very painful downside to gaming that is done to excess,” said Pappas.
He compared unregulated gaming to Prohibition in the US, and told Guardian Business that he expects the topic to come up at the forthcoming forum.
“We’re going to have one or two debates I’m sure and panel sessions, and if it doesn’t get raised I’m going to raise it,. The parallels are very similar to the Voldstead Act - the prohibition of alcohol for that famous 10-12 year period in the US where they decided they would have the ‘sober society’ and concentrate on what was important.
“The church was very much behind that, and what was the result? People drank astonishing amounts of booze, huge amounts of money was spent on it, and you had this gangster class of people that rose up. The illicit gaming that happens here, you are not alone in that, Trinidad and Tobago has the same issue.
“They don’t have a regulator because they don’t want to be seen to regulate something that is illegal, but they realize that the writing is on the wall, the end is nigh and they are at the point where they either take the plunge and legalize it or stamp it out somehow.”
Republished with permission of the Nassau Guardian