The Gambling (Gaming and Betting) Control Bill, 2020 mentioned in the Speech from the Throne and promised by Premier and Minister for Finance Hon. Andrew Fahie appeared on the Order of the Day of the 25 February continuation sitting of the House of Assembly.
Prior to its arrival in the House of Assembly the legislation had a brief stint at Cabinet. According to the report from the 12 February Cabinet sitting the members noted the Gambling (Gaming and Betting) Control and decided on the repeal of Section 335 of the Criminal Code of the Virgin Islands to decriminalise gambling.
During that Cabinet sitting the decision was also made that the Premier’s Office would instruct the Attorney General’s Chambers to vet the Bill for its finalisation and submission to the Cabinet for consideration and subsequently proceed for its first reading in the House of Assembly to ensure the input of the public.
In previous announcements it was stated that this legislation would allow pari-mutuel betting and gaming in specified areas of the Territory. This was explained by Premier Andrew Fahie while speaking in the December 13 sitting. The clarification from Hon. Fahie came as a result of some negative discussions about the proposed legislation he said he heard.
During that sitting of the House the Premier stated that there were some voices against the matter following the announcement. The Premier said. “Gaming and Gambling legislation in specified areas …that [is]nearly done…I know some people groan…”
“It’s amazing in this country the money going out before our very eyes; and people telling you don’t do it, but everybody doing it. Might as well we make our money from it…” the Premier added.
This Bill is also expected to allow cruise ships to remain in the Territory overnight; a move that is expected to improve the Territory’s night life. Additionally, it will enable the horse racing games at the Ellis Thomas Downs to have a legal betting component.
The legislation was announced by His Excellency Governor Augustus Jaspert in the Speech from the Throne delivered on November 14 in the House of Assembly.
In his speech the Governor said, “Our government would put forward legislation to introduce and regulate the gaming and betting industry to provide for the establishment of the gambling, gaming and betting control commission.”