New concepts in betting and gaming are being devised abroad. Recent data indicate that the amount of capital being made available for gaming in the U.S.A. compares most favorably with the deployment of funds in other areas of investment.
It would be wishful thinking to imagine that Jamaica will be immune to the gaming fever, which is taking place in that country. The Commission has been receiving numerous applications from U.S-based entities for lottery and gaming licences to operate in Jamaica.
A decision as to whether casino-type gaming should be introduced into Jamaica is not one, which the Commission has the authority to take.
The challenge facing the Commission today is one of preparedness-to performing its advisory role with integrity and competence and to be at all times mindful of its responsibilities under the law in the interest of the people of Jamaica.
The Early Years
The first two (2) years of monitoring by the Commission, as was expected, marked a period of major adjustment for bookmakers, as many found it difficult to adapt to the methods and outlook in conforming to the new system of control imposed by the regulations and enforce by the Commissions inspectors. There were elements of uncertainty and suspicion on both sides.
However, the successes of the regulatory body in easing these early tensions were achieved mainly because of the bookmakers and their agents who co-operated, and the tactful perseverance of the Inspectorate ensured that by 1978 a modicum of mutual trust was evident.
Later, the Jamaica Bookmakers Association performed an important function in assisting the Commission in matters affecting the bookmaking industry. These achievements were the direct result of the Commission s willingness to approach the solution of problems through meetings and discussions. There was a complete change in the supervision of bookmakers operations with the transfer of the major functions of the Commission.
Today, the entire system of licensing, supervision and monitoring rests with Commission. The only functions retained by the Commissioners of Inland Revenue are those relating to the collection of taxes.
The Commissions monitoring of the racing promoters operations produced fewer tensions for obvious reasons. The Commissioner of Inland Revenue still retained at the Caymanas Park Racetrack functions not only associated with tax collection but also had a shared responsibility with the Commission to ensure that the Totalisator operated efficiently and in the best interest of the betting public.
Over the years also, a high degree of trust and co-operation existed between the promoter of horse racing and the Commission. Licensed bookmakers and the racing promoter at present account for all the legal transactions on horse racing which, in the calendar year 1993, amounted to $1,228 million.
Establishment of the Commission
In March 1973, the Government appointed a Committee whose main function was to draft instructions for the establishment of a statutory body to regulate and control the operation of betting and gaming and the conduct of lotteries in the Island. The Bill amending the parent Act became law on 26 May 1975.
In general, the ministerial functions under the Act as regards betting and lotteries were transferred to the newly created Betting Gaming & Lotteries Commissions. The Commission was required to inform and advise the Minister in relation to his functions under the Act.
This Commission also assumed the functions then performed by the Collector General with regard to the granting, revocation or suspension of licences and permits; and was empowered to delegate some of its functions and to hear appeals against the decision of persons to whom such functions have been delegated.
Before introducing the Betting Gaming & Lotteries Commission, it is necessary to inform on certain restrictions on gambling, which existed prior to the Commission's establishment.
The Gambling Law of 1899 defined "unlawful gambling" to include cock-fighting, and the act of betting or of playing a game for a stake when practiced in or upon any path, street, road or place to which the public have access; in any spirit-licensed premises except in certain clubs approved by the Governor; or in or at a common gaming house as defined under the law. The Courts had, over the years, decided that, in order for a transaction to constitute a bet or a wagering contract, it was essential that each party should either win or lose.
A transaction with a bookmaker constituted a bet or a wager, since, depending on the outcome of the events, either the bookmaker would lose or the person effecting the transaction would lose.
By contrast, where the transaction took place by means of a totalisator, the Courts held that such transaction did not, in law, constitute a bet or a wager because the owner of the totalisator could not win or lose, since his only benefit was his fixed pre-determined percentage derived from the total amounts recorded by sales on the particular race. The transaction did not constitute a bet and, therefore, no act of gaming, unlawful or otherwise, took place.
There were few places in Jamaica where public betting could legally take place. One such place was at Knutsford Park in Saint Andrew where horse racing was conducted and at other racetracks in the Island. There were also a few off-track betting outlets which offered bets to punters unable to attend the races.
Cycle races, another very popular sport, were promoted every Friday night at Town Moor at the site at present called the National Heros Park in Kingston. It was inevitable that illegal gambling would flourish in an environment where opportunities for gambling were few and beyond the reach of most persons. Bookmaking had not yet been legalized though this activity enjoyed popular support.
During the 1950s and the 1960s two (2) major developments occurred in relation to gambling in Jamaica. Firstly, bookmakers expanded their business and, secondly, there was a significant increase in the amount of money being spent on football pools and similar gambling promotions overseas. Technological advances in radio, and telephone brought the gambling activities of Great Britain and the U.S.A. closer to Jamaica.
The norms and attitudes of the early 1900s could no longer be expected to remain unchanged in the face of these exposures.
The Gambling Law of 1899 defined "unlawful gambling" to include cock-fighting...
In March 1973, the Government appointed a Committee...
The first two (2) years of monitoring by the Commission...
New concepts in betting and gaming are being devised abroad...