PHILIPSBURG–With seven operational licence holders, St. Maarten is home to approximately 360 number lottery ticket venues, resulting in an average of 22.5 registered vending locations and 6.9 lottery booths per square mile, as of February 2021, the Social Economic Council SER stated in its study on the social-economic impact of lottery booths in low-income areas.
St. Maarten has approximately 3.2 times as many registered lottery booths per square mile compared to the number of booths that are permitted on other islands, such as Curaçao. In St. Maarten lottery booths outnumber casinos 8 to l.8, the SER said in its report.
Based on data provided by The Department of Economy, Transportation and Telecommunication (ETT) of the Ministry of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunications (TEATT), the SER has found that the number of lottery booths registered between 2019 and 2021 consists of approximately 111 booths, divided over nine districts, 75% of which are in Cole Bay, Upper and Lower Prince’s Quarter and Cul de Sac.
The districts Cole Bay followed by Lower Prince’s Quarter have the highest number of lottery booths, whereas Simpson Bay and Little Bay have the lowest number of booths.
The number of lottery booths and resellers in lower-income communities should be limited, the SER advised. Lottery selling points should not be placed within a 100-metre radius of schools, hospitals, clinics, churches, banks and rehabilitation centres.
According to the SER, licence holders should be prohibited from selling lottery tickets to vulnerable persons, including persons – potentially – suffering from serious gambling addiction.
On May 6, 2022, the SER received a request from the Cabinet of the Prime Minister/Minister of General Affairs to conduct research on the placement of lottery booths in lower income areas. The request for advice was submitted by leader of Party for Progress (PFP) faction leader Melissa Gumbs on October 29, 2020.
The request for an advice by Member of Parliament (MP) Gumbs highlighted concerns about the growing number of lottery booths and kiosks, considering the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The advice request posed three questions to be answered by the SER: the number of lottery booths in St. Maarten prior to Hurricanes Irma and Maria as compared to the number in 2020; the socio-economic impact on the communities in which these lottery booths are placed; and the support available to those who may suffer from gambling addiction in these communities.
From a 2017 study by the Gambling Research Exchange, it emerged that there is a higher prevalence of gambling among populations experiencing poverty than amongst the general population.
In its report of February 13, 2023, which was sent to Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs and the Parliament of St. Maarten, the SER said it had reviewed the legislative background of lottery booths and available data and information. In addition, the advice also outlines general concerns and the SER’s advice regarding this topic.
The TEATT Ministry’s ETT Department is charged with documenting all lottery booths in St. Maarten, but lottery licence-holders do not inform the ETT Department of new locations in conjunction with the temporary nature of lottery booths. “Therefore, the actual number of lottery booths may in fact be much higher,” the SER said.
Speaking about the “unregulated reality of lottery booths” the SER said there are no limitations on the number of sales points a lottery licence-holder may establish with their licence, and according to SER, the TEATT Ministry issues lottery licences indefinitely, contrary to the temporary term of five years as laid down in the Lottery Ordinance.
Current legislation also does not incorporate any form of social responsibility or obligations of the lottery licence-holder to actively prevent and/or reduce gambling addiction in St. Maarten.
Enforcement and compliance
The SER unanimously advised government to accelerate enforcement and compliance activities and to amend the Lottery Licence Decree to specifically ensure proper regulation of lotteries and their sales points, including limitation of the number of sales points and resellers allowed per permit holder.
The council further recommends fines in the event of non-compliance, in combination with an increase of the current maximum penalty of NAf. 5,000, and increase in due diligence when enforcing compliance of applicable laws, “and in the event the government opts for the implementation of a Gaming Control Board, to then allow this entity to investigate alternative ways to enforce compliance within the gaming industry.”
It also recommends an amendment to grant the TEATT minister the ability to request funding from all lottery licence holders to contribute, via the government or another governing body, to a cause of social interest related to the (prevention of) gambling addiction.
The SER also recommends an audit of all lottery licence holders and lottery booths to gain an in-depth understanding of the magnitude of the lottery booth gambling industry in St. Maarten.
The SER states that since 1995 no viable data are available on the magnitude of gambling addiction in St. Maarten.
According to Article 12 of the Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Treaty in conjunction with Article 21 of the Constitution of St. Maarten, the government has a legal obligation to take the necessary steps to provide adequate care for persons suffering from mental illnesses such as gambling addiction.
SER noted a “severe increase” in persons requesting mental health care and a low number of psychiatrists. There are currently no forms of specialised care for persons suffering from a (gambling) addiction.
In its advice, the SER states that the holders of lottery licences also have a social responsibility. Therefore, gambling tax revenues should go towards programmes that prevent and effectively reduce the risk of developing a gambling addiction, including the funding of programmes geared towards improving the level of care to persons suffering of such addiction.
The SER recommends including the coverage of care for mental illnesses in the insurance packages, as addiction care provided by Mental Health Foundation or Turning Point Foundation is currently not covered.
TEATT informed the SER that the ministry is “currently in the process” of reviewing its laws that regulate lottery booths.
Bron: Daily Herald