The Gaming Authority and the world of unknowns

Dear Editor,

Howard Zinn (author of You Can’t be Neutral on a Moving Train), while speaking at a political event in the United States had the following to say on pronouncements by former US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. The Secretary had explained the threats to the West as being invisible and unidentifiable, and Zinn then went on to quote him directly: “‘There are things that we know and there are known unknowns, that is to say there are things we now know that we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. These are things we do not know we do not know.’ Rumsfeld goes on to say, simply because you do not have evidence that something exists does not mean that you have evidence that it doesn’t exist.”

The waffling pronouncements from the Gaming Authority over the last three weeks are like Rumsfeld quotes, logically inexplicable, defying legal specificity and lacking cognitive clarity; thus, taking us into Rumsfeld’s world of known unknowns and unknown unknowns.

The Kaieteur News article dated September 25, 2017, captioned ‘Gaming Authority has every right to ensure the integrity of individuals seeking casino licences’ quoted Roysdale Forde, Chairman of the Gaming Authority, as making the following preposterous assertion: “The Guyana Constitution dictates that any company that is to be granted a casino licence must be deemed wholly ‘fit and proper.’”

Deeper down the rabbit hole, we have a contorted article published by Stabroek News, dated September 30, 2017, and captioned ‘Sleep-In, directors asked to submit seven years of tax returns for casino application’. Reference was made in the article to Section 29A and Section 32(1) of the Gambling Prevention Act, stating that the Gaming Authority has the power to request directors’ income tax returns; then by an invisible or undocumented leap of logic, Mr Forde notes that these amendments are contained in the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (Amendment) Act (AMFCFT Act). When did the Minister of Finance appoint the Gaming Authority as the supervising authority for casinos, betting shops and lotteries, an appointment required by the AMLCFT Act, or can other Acts be subverted to provide a legal permit for the Gaming Authority to utilize, when assessing an application for casino licences? Amazingly no specific section of the AMLCFT Act was referenced in the hazy article; only an admixture of half-truths, outright nonsense and mumbo jumbo, which naturally lacked specificity, resulting in an altogether misleading article.

Then we sally forth to October 10, 2017 for more breaking news that crystallized the lost-at-sea image of the Gaming Authority. In a Kaieteur News article captioned ‘Lottery Company was advised not to operationalize gambling machines -Gaming Authority’ and in a Stabroek News article of the same date, captioned ‘Gambling machines at bars part of five-year gov’t, lottery company deal’ it was revealed that an existing agreement (forget the meaningless detail of when the Gaming Authority knew of this agreement) between Guyana Lottery Commission and the Government of Guyana provides for slot machines at bars and restaurants. None of these “bars” has fifteen rooms, much less the one hundred and fifty rooms required by the Gambling Prevention Act that governs the Gaming Authority.  In the Kaieteur News article, the enlightened or newly empowered Chairman Forde, seems to have seen the agreement and revealed to the public that it made provision for the right of the Guyana Lottery Company to operate Video Lottery Terminals in Guyana. What takes the blameshifting nugget is the claim by the Gaming Authority that they advised the Guyana Lottery Commission that the commission should await the enactment of legislation for the operation of the Video Lottery Terminals, when even Joe Sixpack could have informed the Gaming Authority that the name of the legislation is the Gambling Prevention Act, which happens to govern the Gaming Authority. That Act explicitly requires that a new hotel with at least one hundred and fifty rooms needs be built, before slot machines or Video Lottery Terminals or casino machines can be operated in the hotel and casino, subject to the approval of the Gaming Authority.

It seems to me that logical fallacy and circular reasoning are given full vent by the Gaming Authority, especially with the utterly and singularly most ridiculous claim that the Gambling Prevention Act (an oxymoronic name if ever there was one, considering the purpose of the Act is to license gambling) does not provide sufficient legislation for the conditions under which casino machines or Video Lottery Terminals, can be operated in Guyana.

To defend the indefensible is now the task ahead for the erudite and ineffable emplolyees on the Gaming Authority Board. As the effort is made to justify the unjustifiable, we have subterfuge, obfuscation and quackery coming to the fore from the Gaming Authority, during the period that it is conducting its “review” of the casino licence application they received from Sleep-In International Hotel and Casino Inc since April 4, 2017.

After six months of reviewing the application, the Gaming Authority examinations have resulted in sterile clichés, birthed agreements or outings of previously unknown agreements, and further revealed inattention to and disdain for the Gambling Prevention Act. All this happens, as hundreds of millions in investment sit idle at 288-289, Church Street Georgetown, with a hotel of 150 newly built rooms, owned by Guyanese entrepreneurs. The investors had to engage for extended periods to obtain recommendations, concessions and approvals from Go-Invest, the Ministry of Finance and Guyana Revenue Authority, among others. Now potential employees are in the pending approval line and economic woes are compounded.

Further adding to the satire, we have a related article in Kaieteur News, dated October 11, 2017, where Chairman Forde is captioned in the article as saying ‘I did not give Sleep-In’s Application to Attorney General’. Is Mr Forde suggesting that another member or representative of the Gaming Authority is responsible for the sordid deed? The sad, gloomy and depressing truth is that the continued denial of the casino licence approval, is part of a larger ominous trend in Guyana.

Yours faithfully,

Nigel Hinds

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