Guernsey Authorities Accused of Exploiting Problem Gamblers

Harbor and Skyline of Saint Peter Port, Guernsey

The gambling authorities in the Channel Islands have been accused of profiting off problem gamblers.

Deputy Emilie Yerby says that the States of Guernsey benefits from selling the Channel Islands Lottery scratch cards.

Certain retailers are asking every customer making a purchase if they would like to buy a scratch card. Yerby has been calling for a debate about gambling for some time now.

Guernsey’s scratch card offering

The latest figures for gambling revenues in Guernsey shows that they made profits of almost £10m ($13m) in 2017 through selling their scratch cards. That represents an increase of more than 1,000% over the past decade, from £822,000 ($1.1m) in 2007.

A share of the profits from the Channel Islands Lottery goes to the operation of the Beau Sejour Leisure Centre, which is in St Peter’s Port, Guernsey. Yerby is against using lottery funds to help fund important core services.

Talking about this issue, she said:  “There’s generally a reluctance in the States to debate anything that’s going to involve us having to raise money from different sources, or having to raise more money, which inevitably we would have to do to fill the gaps left by the lottery revenue.”

She went on to say that they have a social responsibility to ensure that they are not taking advantage of people’s problems and vices to increase state revenues. In 2017, the contribution to the Beau Sejour Leisure Centre from the Channel Islands Lottery was £493,000 ($630,000).

Prize money was about £7m ($9m), and another £2m ($2.6m) went to costs or was reserved for future drawings.

Since January, the lottery pays £15,000 ($19,170) each year to the Committee for Home Affairs to help people who struggle with gambling addiction.

Guernsey and gambling

Guernsey is part of the Channel Islands along with Jersey. Jersey, of course, is very popular with gambling operators. Many of them have operations based on the island. Guernsey has a population of about 65,000 people, and gambling is legal there.

The Guernsey Gambling Control Commission began in 2002 to regulate gambling and to help prevent financial crime. There were also plans to create a casino on the grounds of the St. Pierre Park Hotel. The Commission would have been in charge of its regulation.

The casino plan was provisionally given the green light. However, when the developer tried to scale down the investment in the project from £25m ($32m) to £15m ($19m), it was rejected. Therefore, there was never a casino built on the island. Despite this, casino gambling is legal.

Before 2006, bookmakers on the island could not open on Sundays. A change was made in return for higher licensing fees.

Lottery offerings in Guernsey

The Guernsey Lottery has been in operation since 1971. In 1975, they partnered with the Jersey Lottery in what is now called the Channel Islands Lottery.

For many years, the lottery used a classic draw format to decide the winners. That was changed in 2004 to a scratch card lottery approach. Two different draws are always in operation, both in the scratch card format. The prizes for these draws go from free scratch cards to £20,000 ($26,000).

A special Christmas lottery is held each year using a half scratch card and half draw format. A large portion of the funds raised go to the Association of Guernsey Charities.

Over the years, there have been many calls for the UK National Lottery to be allowed on the island, but there has been no progress on this issue.

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