Opposition hits Gambling Bill

An executive member of the Union of Members Clubs and Lottery Workers (UMCLW) is to be sworn in as a temporary Opposition Senator today, as the Senate debates a bill that could put an end to the local gaming industry.

„Because of the special nature of the occasion the UNC is offering the opportunity to the executive member of that union to speak in her capacity as a temporary Senator, Cindy Gibbs,“ said Leader of Opposition Business in the Senate, Wade Mark.

In an interview yesterday, Mark said that Gibbs would be acting in place of Opposition United National Congress member Raziah Ahmed who is not well, as the Senate begins its debate on the Finance Bill this afternoon. The Finance Bill seeks to, among other objectives, amend the Gambling and Betting Act that would phase out slot machines which are used in casinos and private members clubs.

Mark said that for the UNC, the real issue was not gambling itself but freedom of choice.

„I don’t gamble but I believe it is the right of every citizen in this country to exercise their choice (to do so) if they so desire. I am defending the rights of people to exercise that choice,“ he said. At a UMCLW news conference on June 6, Gibbs said the bill, once passed would see some 7,000 people employed in the gaming industry losing their only source of income.

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar had expressed her party’s intentions not to support the bill when it was debated in the House of Representatives.

The bill, which only requires a simple majority, was passed by the Government majority in the Lower House on June 18.

The UNC Senators, who comprise the only Opposition members in the Senate intend to toe the party line.

„It’s a simple majority bill but it infringes on the rights of the people. I am not saying that the bill should be a majority bill. I am saying the implication of the measures that are being instructed by the Government does infringe on the fundamental rights and freedoms of the citizens,“ Mark said.

He asserted that Prime Minister Patrick Manning’s Christian beliefs were the only reason the bill came into being in the first place.

„We condemn in the strongest possible terms anyone, including the Prime Minister, seeking to impose his own individual, narrow, fundamentalist views on this secular society. This is not a Christian fundamentalist society. This is a secular society,“ Mark said.