Member of Parliament takes stand against bingo on TV

Member of Parliament for Palauli Sisifo, Afoa Amituana’i Mauli, has urged Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi and the Government to reconsider its decision to allow the screening of bingo games on national television. 

Afoa, who initially raised the concern in Parliament when he compared the decision to "opening gateway to hell" reiterated the call during an interview with the Samoa Observer. 

He said it is not too late for Parliament to amend the Gambling Control Act to cease bingo from being screened on national television to protect children from being exposed to gambling.

The M.P. who also sits on the Parliamentary Finance and Expenditure Committee said members had strongly opposed broadcasting bingo on television or even the radio.  He made it clear that he is not opposed to bingo being hosted by churches or villages.

“My issue is with bingo being screened on T.V. and into family homes where children are present,” he said.

“The Minister [of Ministry of Public Enterprises] is saying that there is a warning notice that comes up before the game saying its R21 and its being aired late at night. But the issue is the Gambling Authority passing on the responsibility to the parents to tell their children to go to sleep when its their (Gambling Control Authority's) responsibility to regulate this.

“It’s not right and if the authority cannot monitor this. It should be stopped.”

The M.P. pointed out if the Government is passing the buck to the parents to be responsible for their children to ensure they do not play bingo from home, the changes should be made to the law.

“The Gambling Authority should amend the law to say that parents are responsible for monitoring their children,” he said. 

“I strongly feel that the legislation is not satisfied with bingo continuing to be screened on television exposing children to it. 

“In the absence of a provision to govern who is responsible to monitor those playing from home, the T.V. bingo operation should not continued.”

It was not possible to get a comment from the T.V. bingo operator and the Gambling Authority. 

Director of T.V. Bingo, Kuinimeri Tamati, had previously declined to comment on the issue when it was raised by Afoa in February's Parliament session. 

The Minister of Public Enterprises, Lautafi Selafi Purcell, had briefly countered concerns from Afoa in Parliament.

Lautafi said the M.P's concerns have come too little too late as the legislation had already been passed in previous years.

He maintained that it is the responsibility of parents to ensure their children are not watching T.V. when the bingo is on air.

 “It is the responsibility of the parent – the ministries can’t go inside people’s home to make sure their children are asleep,” he said.

 “But the game is on air at 10 p.m. for an hour and it’s been aired at that time because by then children should already be in bed.”

Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, also supported the views of the Minister. 

The Prime Minister made the point that if the member insists on stopping TV bingo, then all kinds of bingo games, including the ones carried out by churches, should be banned.

Regardless of the comments made by the Prime Minister and Lautafi, Afoa maintains that it is his duty as an M.P. to ensure that laws passed in House will not have any adverse impact on families. 

He explained if the T.V. bingo continues it's implication is felt by families and can be a factor of family violence. 

Asked for evidence to support his claim, Afoa said everyday violence in families is reported by the press and one of the causes is financial problems. 

“If we continue to allow these we are not discouraging violence within homes and it can affect the environment of children within the households,” he said. 

"Its promoting gambling within homes and while families should be spending on necessities they need at home they are now playing bingo." 

A letter penned by Afoa to highlight his concerns is published on page 12 of the Sunday Samoan.

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