Members Clubs have been allowed by law for over a hundred and fifty years and in regards to gambling, have always been allowed by law to conduct gambling amongst the members. Customer preference for type of games of entertainment has changed over the years and most recently the preferred type of entertainment has been casino style games.

In the last 23 years the Members Clubs has grown into an industry. This has happened because people were looking for an entertainment that offered security and entertainment in a social atmosphere. Casino type games took hold because they are international and trusted. Apart from satisfying local entertainment needs, many tourists are entertained by having entertainment which they are accustomed to. Many Barbadians come to Trinidad Members Clubs regularly after a days’ shopping. Business people staying at hotels are brought by taxi drivers and enjoy the opportunity to unwind in secure surroundings. Taiwanese fishermen in Trinidad between trips are also regulars of Members Clubs. The Industry has matured and employs over 2000 people. There are also over 5000 dependants of workers and over 8000 more dependant through  ancillary employment such as the food and drink suppliers, taxi drivers, seamstresses, printers, decorators etc.

In1983 a group of 10 Trinidadians opened the first Members Club offering casino type games. Platinum Members Club founders included Macdonald Ward of Mas Camp Pub, Maurice Fong, Mike Hadeed, Kim Sabeeney and others. The club was extremely popular and changed hands several times before closing in 2003, under the failed management of Peter George.

When Club Casanovas opened in 1986 there was a proven need established and the club prospered .Apart  from Restaurant and dancehall layout they offered Blackjack, Baccarat, Craps and Roulette. Casino type gambling took hold in Trinidad and became very popular as so  many people had been exposed to it in other countries and found it entertaining and sociable.

By 1992 every city had at least one Members Club offering casino type gambling and the Finance Minister decided to tax the games. By this time Island Club had opened a Club and introduced slot machines. For several years they had the slot machine market exclusively as the then Finance Minister had specifically forbidden them. It was clear that people enjoyed the slot machines and locally owned Clubs also began to offer that entertainment once the present Prime Minister taxed slot machines specifically, thus reversing the rule.

Recently the Prime Minister took it upon himself personally to control the proliferation of slot machines but when he increased the tax he made his feelings about gambling known and attracted much attention including a march by Members Club workers who were fearful of losing their jobs.

Upstanding persons such as ex TTMA President Peter George, ex McEnearney Director, Bill Whitling, Sunny Group CEO, John Wallis, banker Brian deMontrichard and the renowned Laquis family found themselves being labelled negatively along with foreign persons who were not even allowed into the Association of Members Clubs. In Parliament Members Clubs were described as being involved in money laundering and prostitution even though there was no evidence of such. The Association of Members Clubs was never asked its’ opinion or advice.

After further tax increases the Prime Minister realized he wasn’t controlling the spread of new clubs and at the last minute wisely withdrew measures in the budget that would have driven much membership club gambling underground and would have put thousands of young workers from underprivileged areas, out of work. The withdrawn proposal would also have caused a multiplication of slot arcades as the proposed maximum of 25 machines would have caused owners to open multiple arcades. The resultant lack of controls could have caused underage gambling.

The problem of foreigners of unknown repute opening slot arcades under the guise of members clubs continues with the latest entry being Chinese individuals from Hong Kong who are known to bring in girls who do ‘massages’. Now a group from Turkey have been given accommodation at Movietowne where children will be in danger of exposure to gambling. Unless controlled the Industry will take a bad turn.

It should be pointed out that Foreigners have been allowed by authority to open membership clubs. These people seem immune to laws governing immigration, work permits, taxes and money transfers. If existing laws were enforced the Foreign element would be much smaller than it is today.

The local Members Club industry is still far larger than the foreign element and able to absorb the workers from it if need be.

Local Members Clubs employees have proven themselves capable of world class gaming management. The Locally Managed Members Clubs have over the last 20 years expanded nationally and even internationally. There are now Trinidadian owned and managed gambling establishments in Barbados, Botswana and Estonia (through the Sunny Group). Locally trained gaming personnel are also known to hold top managerial jobs on cruise ships, in St.Maarten and Antigua. Nearly all of these top International Managers are from underprivileged backgrounds.

The local Members Club industry deplores the bad image given to it and believes that the correct legislation will allow it to flourish, employ and entertain. The Association of Members Clubs is in favor of urgent legislation that will protect the interests of workers, persons enjoying entertainment and society in general.