Forde says gaming authority wants to run ‘tight, transparent ship’

The nature and circumstances of the local gaming industry requires of the National Gaming Authority (NGA) the application of the highest possible standards of integrity and transparency if there is to be an adequate measure of competence in a sector which will attract both national and foreign attention and participation, NGA Chairman, Attorney Roysdale Forde told the Stabroek Business on Tuesday.

The Sleepin Hotel on Brickdam
The Sleepin Hotel on Brickdam

Forde was at the time elaborating on the decision by the authority to refuse an application made by Sleepin International Hotel and Casino Inc for a Casino Operator’s Licence and a Casino Premises Licence.

“It is really a very simple matter. Sleepin applied for the licences under the Gambling Prevention Act Cap 9:02 but failed to satisfy a critical requirement for consideration, that is, evidence of financial soundness and capability to run such an operation. Having found the application to be deficient in that regard we had no option but to point out the limitation in the application and refuse the application. That is in keeping with our commitment to a tight, transparent ship,” Force said.

Forde said the NGA’s move to make public its decision in the matter of the Sleepin application, through a media release issued earlier this week, “had everything to do with the fact that we considered the matter to be one of public interest. Sometimes in the nature of things, if you keep a decision like this quiet it could come back to haunt you in one way or another. As Chairman of the [NGA] it is not my wish to act in a manner that might raise issues regarding the integrity of the [NGA]” Forde said. Forde said that the matter of the non-issuance of the licences to the applicant “should not necessarily be considered as closed. “I can tell you that it is not the wish of the authority to needlessly stand in the way of a legitimate application. That having been said the law is what it is and it has to be respected,” he added.

Meanwhile, in what would appear to be an implicit acknowledgement of the deficiencies in the original licence applications, Sleepin Company Secretary Clifton Bacchus earlier this week dispatched a latter to Forde undertaking “to take the requisite steps” in addressing the grounds cited in the NGA’s communication turning down the licence applications. Bacchus also undertook in his letter to “submit new applications along with the requisite financial information.”

Forde heads the NGA Board that was installed earlier this year and which held its first meeting in April. After the meeting the Ministry of the Presidency had issued a statement committing the Board to ensuring that its operations are conducted in a manner that is fair, transparent and which adheres to the laws, rules and regulations which govern it.

Public discourse on the issue of gaming in Guyana has not been without its controversy with Christians and conservatives alike objecting to the institutionalizing of public gambling, though the business sector has made no secret of the fact that it regards gambling as a source of revenue generated from both local and foreign casino patrons.

The NGA is also charged with reviewing past applications for casino licences.

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