Casino owners bid for deal with Govt

Casino operators have offered Government a proposal to have their industry regulated instead of shut down, which may happen if the State enforces legislation Prime Minister Patrick Manning said it would in his national budget presentation last week.

Delegates from the Association of Members Clubs (AMC) met with Minister in the Ministry of Finance Conrad Enill yesterday for clarification on Manning’s announcement last Wednesday. Manning said then: „The government is totally against the operation of casinos and all casino-type establishments.“

He also said: „The government proposes to enforce the law so that private members‘ clubs must operate within the confines and original intent of the law.“

Manning suggested that the clubs had been using loopholes in the law to allow gambling.

Emerging from the hour-long meeting with Enill yesterday, Charles Sookhan of the Island Club Casino said the primary concern of owners was the announcement of the immediate ban on the importation and use of slot machines.

He said Enill promised to clarify the issue to the group at a follow-up meeting soon.

Sookhan said the group also discussed possible regulation of casinos as a measure to maintain the gaming industry.

„The industry needs, of course, regulations,“ he said. „We’ve outlined to the minister our concerns at it relates to regulations. We believe if we regulate, there will be a lot of benefits to the industry.“

Sookhan said he could not say if casinos were breaching the law as Manning suggested.

„At this point, our legal team is addressing that issue, there are a number of opinions as it were because of the number of amendments that have come across from 1996 onwards. There have been so many changes to the legislation.“

Legal action which the association had threatened has been put on hold until talks with Enil are completed, Sookhan said.

Casino workers are expected to join the fight for their livelihood on Friday during a protest from the Ma Pau Casino to Whitehall, Port of Spain.

„We are trying to save an industry. We have over 6,000 employees.“