The Minister of Public Enterprises, Lautafi Fio Purcell, has tabled a bill to regulate and control gambling activities in Samoa.
The Gaming Control Bill 2017 was tabled in Parliament on Monday.
Among its objectives, the bill seeks to:
• To control operation of gaming and gambling activities;
• Prevent and minimize the harm caused by gaming and gambling;
• Authorize certain types of gaming and gambling activities and prohibit other types of gaming and gambling;
• Promote responsible and fair gaming and gambling; and
• Limit opportunities for crime and dishonesty associated with gaming and gambling activities; and
• Ensure money gained from gaming and gambling is applied to community purposes
According to Lautafi, the Bill is an important part of the government’s efforts to protect members of the public from being negatively affected by gaming activities of all sorts. These range from bingo, online betting games and all other forms of gambling.
“We all know that many of our people are playing different kinds of gaming and gambling including games being offered by telecommunication service providers such as Digicel and Bluesky,” Minister Lautafi said.
“So this Bill defines the terms in relation to gaming by telecommunications service providers and states that such gaming and gambling activities must be licensed in accordance and in the manner determined by the Chief Executive Officer.
“It also states that they have to make an application to the Chief Executive Officer for a license to conduct gaming or gambling activities through the use of a telecommunication devices or electronic data.
“This empowers the Chief Executive Officer to grant or refuse a license.”
The bill also covers Bingo activities.
“It says that a person must apply for a license to conduct bingo which allows the Chief Executive Officer to grant or refuse such application to conduct bingo,” said Lautafi.
“This will also offer that an organization that has been granted a license to conduct bingo must appoint a voluntary caller or an organizer to conduct a bingo game.
“Not only that; but this will provide an obligation on a licensee to conduct bingo to maintain written record of matters provided in this provision.
“Such information must be kept for not less than 12 months from the date the game was conducted.
“Such information must be available for inspection to the Chief Executive Officer and empowers an inspector to inspect bingo premises.”
M.P. of Fa’asaleleaga West #1, Gatoloaifaana Amataga Gidlow, supported the Bill.
She questioned Section 3 of the Bill where it has control over gambling, which prohibits a person under the age of 21 from gambling.
“What regulations does the Bill have to stop the young ones under the age of 21 from playing these games through telecommunication service providers?” asked Gatoloai.
“How can this Bill ensure that these young people are not playing T.V. Bingo from their home?
“This is my only concern about this Bill. A lot of the people who are gambling and playing games using texting on mobile phones are all under 21 years old.”
Member of Parliament from Urban West, Faumuina Wayne Fong, also shared his thoughts on the bill. He suggested that the government should assess the income levels of organisations applying for a license.
In most cases, bingo games are being used by small organisations – mainly churches – for much needed development projects.
“What I am saying is that some organizations and congregations depend on bingo to develop their churches as well as organizations,” he said.
Another Member of Parliament pointed out that bingo is now widely played on national TV. He cautioned against it.
“Some congregations do not allow gambling,” he said.
“However, we all see that it’s now being aired on television. We can’t see through every home in Samoa to find out what is happening. But who knows? One mother or a family is playing T.V. bingo at home when they know very well they are not allowed to by their church.
“They may say ‘the pastor can’t see me’ but God can see it so I want to put it to the Minister if there is any way that we can stop this from being aired on television.
“Even the part of the Bill that says police officers will no longer have the authority to issue a license but this will be the ministry’s part.
“What I’m saying is the Ministry is not the Police. So what if something happens during the time the people are playing bingo? The ministry will not have control over it so I hope you will consider all these concerns.
“But we fully support the Bill, it’s just those small concerns that we have.”
Lautafi told the parliament that the Ministry will review the Bill and will take into consideration all the concerns expressed.