BVI Legalizes Gambling – What are the odds?

A lot of people are placing bets that the most recent legislation passed by the House of Assembly of the British Virgin Islands will be a big winner—for residents, tourists, investors, and the BVI Government.

Earlier this week, the House passed the Gambling (Gaming & Betting) Control Act (the Act) to legalize and regulate gambling in the Territory. The next step is for the Act to be published in the gazette, which should be done in the coming weeks. A further Act specific to horse racing is expected and was announced as part of the current Government’s legislative agenda in 2019.

Let Us Entertain You!

The Act opens new avenues for investment and entertainment, and will regulate—and potentially create—opportunities to establish new venues for previously illegal activity. It will be welcome news when the cruise industry resumes sailing into Tortola. Prior to the Act, cruise ships opted not to dock overnight in the Territory as they could not operate the casinos onboard. The move to allow gambling and gaming also provides the opportunity to expand sports betting; in particular, for popular local horse racing.

Economic Advantages?

From a revenue standpoint, the Territory should immediately benefit from licensing fees. The wider economic outlook is also positive—from infrastructure investment to job creation. Studies in other countries show that jobs in the gaming industry traditionally pay higher wages than in other industries. With payroll tax in the BVI being the only tax on income, this has the potential to widen the tax base and increase tax dollars significantly.

Regulation and Protections

The Act provides for the establishment of a Gambling (Gaming and Betting) Control Commission. It is anticipated that with responsible regulation will come strong consumer protection, and the expansion of career paths in the BVI. Section 51 of the Act provides for internal controls dealing with a range of issues, including human resource practices, accounting systems, and procedures for recording and determining winnings.

Overall, the Act has been well received by the public, and the expansion of entertainment options is keenly anticipated by many, including investors, restaurateurs, and entreprenurs.

The Property & Business Department of O’Neal Webster has been advising investors and entrepreneurs on establishing and doing business in the BVI for over three decades. For more information on gaming in the BVI, please contact Jenelle Archer, or any member of the Property & Business practice.

This information is intended to provide general information about legal developments. Nothing in this Legal Update should be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion, and readers should not act upon the information set out above without seeking the advice of legal counsel.

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