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Apr 30, 1999

Gaming Control Bill debated in House

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The House Meeting in Belmopan was short and sweet today, but not without some highly charged debate. The hot topic for the day was the Gaming Control Bill. According to Prime Minister Said Musa gambling is widespread and uncontrolled. He says this bill is designed to both regulate and collect some revenue from this growing industry.

Said Musa, Prime Minister

“Gambling in Belize was for many years been confined to the Sunday Lottery, which was at one time called the Panama Lottery and the Boledo. There were of course the places that had Bingo and then there were those that had back rooms where card games such as poker and pittipat were played and are playing. Then came Lotto. The past administration also legalized computer wagering or gambling on the computer. But that was not over; the past several years government turned a blind eye as the electronic gaming machines started pouring into Belize.

We are faced today with a proliferation of these gambling machines. Arcade machines, poker machines, slot machines and we have clubs, bar rooms and even restaurants with these gaming machines all over the country – in all 6 districts. Minors frequent these places; children are even spending their lunch money on these machines. Families with young children who go out to eat in some restaurants are confronted with the sight and sounds of these machines totally uncontrolled, totally unregulated.

This bill is designed to control and regulate gaming in Belize. It would provide a system for the licensing and control of this business and allow for the imposition of a very serious tax on gaming. Under the law any operator of such machines must first obtain a license, otherwise the establishment will be closed down.”

The legislation provides for heavy fines of up to five thousand dollars to anyone who installs a game machine without obtaining a license and up to 25 thousand dollars if the owner fails to pay the taxes on his or her machine. Licenses will be granted by a Gaming Control Board and machines will only be allowed in areas zoned for this type of activity. Proceeds from the taxes will go towards education, sports and cultural programs.

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