Minister in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs Ryan Straughn and USVI’s Director of the Office of Finance and Management, Jenifer O’Neal at the end of their courtesy call where they discussed ways to better regulate the betting and gaming industries in their respective countries. (T. Barker/BGIS)

Ways to better regulate the betting and gaming industries in Barbados and the United States Virgin Islands (USVI) were among the issues discussed when Director of the Office of Finance and Management, Jenifer O’Neal, paid a courtesy call on Minister in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs, Ryan Straughn.

During the meeting at Government Headquarters on Wednesday, Minister Straughn pointed out that new regulations governing the betting and gaming industry were being drafted, given the operational changes to lotteries and other games of chance over the years.

He acknowledged that government’s regulatory efforts had not been as effective as they should have been, and shared that there were Expressions of Interest for a consulting firm to help government with building a more robust 21st century regulatory framework.

Mr. Straughn stated: “Betting has evolved to the point where it’s so sophisticated that a lot of things that we thought we had covered, really, we did not.  So, we are working now to put a modern legislative framework in place.  But, we need to work with persons who have expertise in this specific area because like it or not, people will gamble but they need to be protected.” 

Ms. O’Neal agreed with Minister Straughn that the legislative framework needed a “lot of work”, and shared some of the initiatives being undertaken in her country to update legislation dating back to several decades.

She proffered: “We know that the industry has changed significantly and we have to get there.  Sports betting and online gaming have outpaced all governments, and we are playing catchup. By the time we get to where they are today, they’ll be much further ahead at that point. So, it is something that we have to keep working at and working together to get things accomplished.” 

Ms. O’Neal continued: Even as we get together as an industry, in the Caribbean we all have the same challenges, so we have to see how we can help each other first of all, and work to make sure that we protect our people.”

The two officials pledged to work collaboratively, and suggested a caucus with other Caribbean countries to agree on a framework for the industry going forward.

julie.carrington@barbados.gov.bb

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