Our History

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.