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29.08.2005 General News

Govt Scared To Ban Private Lotto?

Daily Dispatch

The question keeps coming up - why is the New Patriotic Party (NPP) government of President Kufuor 'scared' to pass the Bill to ban private lotteries?

The NPP government in its 2002 Budget Statement at Parliament on February 21, 2002 stated, "as soon as practicable, a Bill will be placed before this House to repeal PNDC L223 (On Private Lotteries) and restore the monopoly of state."

The government, by its own assessment, will get at least ¢260 bilion extra a year and create at least 10,000 new jobs. The obvious concern is, what is withholding the passage of this all important Bill that holds so much good for this country.

According to the deputy minister for finance and economic planning, Mr. Agyeman Manu, government's tardy action over the Bill is attributable to differences as to whether his ministry or the ministry of the Interior should sponsor the Gaming Bill, a Bill related to the lottery Bill and which government wanted it to be handled in tandem with the Lottery Bill.

In an exclusive interview with the dispatch following the finance minister, Mr. Kwadwo Baah-Wiredu's encounter with the media, Mr. Manu expatiated that the original Lottery Bill which went to Parliament in 2003 had to be withdrawn because it did not expressly capture the intention of government direction in the matter of lottery in the country.The Lottery Bill then went back to cabinet, which recommended that the Bill be split up into two - the Lotto Bill and the Gaming Bill. This decision was informed by Cabinet's acknowledgement that it is unfair for government to monopolise both activities and therefore games of chance such as casino, horse racing be liberalized, Mr. Manu explained.

The finance ministry then worked on the Bill as instructed and first submitted the Lotto Bill back to Cabinet which advised that it should be taken together with the Gaming Bill. Consequently, the ministry processed that Gaming Bill completing it around September 2004 and submitted it together with the Lotto Bill to Cabinet, he further recalled. Cabinet, he said again advised that with the 2004 election just around the corner, the Bill should be shelved so that whoever assumes the realms of governance following the elections can prosecute it. Mr. Manu revealed that somewhere in January 2005 after the elections, while repackaging the Bill back to Cabinet, the interior ministry wrote a memo to the ministry of finance contending that the Gaming Bill should be sponsored by the Ministry of the Interior; "so that became a little bit of a tussle."

The significant aspect of that memo was the reference to the 'modified bill.' It therefore became necessary to meet the minister for interior for the disagreement to be resolved. Mr. Manu said he also consulted the Attorney-General on the issue for the "old version' of the Bill and the "so-called modified one". The Attorney-General subsequently pointed out that "there were no material changes and that the only change was that where there was ministry of finance it has been changed to ministry of interior.

Following the meeting with the interior ministry, it was agreed that the Gaming Bill should still be under the remit of the ministry of finance."We are taking it back to Cabinet under the sponsorship of the ministry of finance, if Cabinet in its wisdom decides that ministry of interior should handle it, fine."Mr. Manu believes that before Parliament comes back from recess in October, Cabinet would have finished with both bills and would be put before the House either late October or early November and get them through before the end of the year.