by Linda Straker
- Gaming and Betting Virgin Islands Control Act of 2020 legalises gambling in BVI
- In June, BVI legislators unanimously voted to legalise gambling in the territory
- National Lotteries Authority (NLA) mandated “to promote the development of lotteries, pools and games of chance in Grenada
Grenadians and other regional visitors from the last quarter of 2020 to the British Virgin Islands (BVI), will have the opportunity to engage in entertainment activities which fall under that territory’s recently approved Gaming and Betting Virgin Islands Control Act of 2020, which legalises gambling.
An Associate Member of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), the BVI, an Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom, is seeking to diversify its economy, which is known for its financial services and tourism sectors. In February 2020, the European Union (EU) removed the BVI from the list of “Non-cooperative Jurisdictions” for tax purposes. This was achieved after various amendments were done to legislation regulating and monitoring that sector, which is responsible for millions in revenue.
Despite concerns raised after the gambling bill was presented in the House of Assembly, in June, legislators unanimously voted to legalise gambling in the territory. The bill lays out a comprehensive framework for regulating various forms of gambling, such as pool betting on horse races, machines in casinos, and lotteries.
As countries and territories across the Caribbean region struggle to revitalise their once-thriving tourism economies in the face of the Covid-19 global health pandemic, diversification of the economy has become a priority for many governments, including the Administration of the 2019-elected Premier, Honourable Andrew A Fahie. “The development of a regulated gaming and betting industry in the BVI will provide economic opportunities that will supplement and complement those of our existing sectors. It will, of course, provide income for the territory. It will also create jobs and direct business opportunities for participants in the sector. Additionally, other businesses such as supermarkets, restaurants and accommodations will benefit as more people experience economic empowerment,” said the Premier.
The Fahie Administration has expressed the vision of transforming the BVI into a leading regional economy by 2025, through entrepreneurship, innovation and local and foreign investment, with the creation of new industries as a driver for economic diversification.
The Caribbean Tourism Performance Report for 2019, in an online presentation in January, stated that the BVI was one of the members experiencing increased visitor arrivals, following the devastation of the 2017 hurricane season. The BVI had increased by 57.3 per cent; meanwhile, Anguilla and Dominica, which are also OECS members that were adversely affected by the 2017 hurricane season, saw visitor arrivals increased by 74.9%, and 51.7% respectively.
As regional countries embark on various initiatives to rebuild economies in this unprecedented Covid-19 health pandemic, it is anticipated that the regulated gambling sector will become a priority revenue earner for the BVI.
In Grenada, gambling is still illegal. However, the National Lotteries Authority (NLA) established by an Act of Parliament Act No. 29 of August 1999, is mandated “to promote the development of lotteries, pools and games of chance in Grenada and for matters connected therewith.”