Police to address illegal raffles and bingos through legal awareness and new regulations

Chief of Police Timothy Wilson

After many years of lack of enforcement by government agencies of current gaming and gambling laws, the problem has grown to the point where the Police can no longer ignore it.

The Police department is hoping to address the non-compliance with the Gaming and Gambling Fee’s Regulations 2005 through legal awareness and updating those regulations, currently with the government lawyers before submission to Cabinet.

Chief of Police Tim Wilson told the News of the Week radio programme on Friday explains that people may not be aware that they are breaking the law by selling personal raffles and holding bingo games.

“The problem we have in Niue is under the current law, you are not allowed to do your own personal raffle and bingos, those are illegal. So people who are doing these personal raffles and bingos, and again, it’s not that people are trying to break the law, it’s just that they don’t understand.”

The current Gaming Fees regulations 2005 clearly spells out that “No persons, except A society incorporated under the Incorporated Societies Act 1908, and whose objects are principally sport, recreational or purposes of benefit to the community or an unincorporated body of persons associating for sporting, recreational or purpose of benefit to the community”.

The following activities are permitted upon approval from the Chief of the Police of the application for a permit.

Permitted ActivityLimitPermit Fee
Raffle (per raffle)$500.00$10.00
Major Raffle (per raffle)Over $500.00$50.00
Housie or bingo (per session)$100.00$20.00
Housie or bingo (for a jackpot competed for over a series of games)$500.00$20.00
Card games (per game per session)$50.00$20.00
Coin-operated machines (per machine per year)$50.00$20.00
Break-open, scratch card or other instant prize games$50.00$20.00

This law has been ignored largely due to the lack of enforcement by government agencies over many years.

The use of social media to sell and the convenience of online banking have made it very difficult to police illegal practices. Another key concern is that the value of the raffles and bingos has increased to the point where the Police can no longer ignore them.

“The other problem we have is that some are very large amounts of money that are going to these things.

BCN News is aware of raffles that will earn the individual thousands of dollars in income from one raffle, while bingo games are being held every week, hosted by individuals and for the most part, without a permit.

“Nobody should be doing a raffle or a bingo without a permit so even if currently, you are doing your own personal one, which is illegal, it’s even more illegal because you’re doing it without a permit to do it. So you have to have a permit to hold a raffle or bingo” said the Chief of Police Tim Wilson.

When asked if the earnings from personal bingo and raffles are being taxed, the Chief said that he is not aware of whether the additional income is being taxed.

The government’s Tax department in response to questions from BCN News said that in the current tax rules, the responsibility for the filing of annual income tax rests with the employer. However in the case of self-employed people, it is up to the individual to submit their annual income tax returns, and in that regard, the Tax Office will trust that the individuals will voluntarily submit additional income.

According to the Tax official, they have not seen any earnings from bingo or raffles when people file their annual personal income tax returns.

The Police though will not be arresting people for breaking the gaming and gambling law but will take the lead in a legal awareness campaign and update the regulations.

Chief Wilson said that many people will not be happy that the Police will begin to crack down on illegal gaming and gambling, but they have to start somewhere to address the problem.

“Instead of trying to go and be hard and enforce all of those things, we would have almost everyone here being charged with the crime and it’s not the right way to do things”.

He says that the Police department is taking the lead to work with other agencies in promoting legal awareness in the community so that people know what the law is when it comes to gaming and gambling in Niue. 

“So we’re just going to, as a way forward, come up with regulations which will allow more of what happens but putting limits on it so that we can have a way to start afresh and move forward and everybody understands these are the rules and make sure that everyone is following them from that point on.”

In an effort to push public awareness on the issue, Radio Sunshine will repeat the interview with Chief of Police Tim Wilson on Thursday this week at 4.30pm

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