PM, Clarke copied as Gaming Assn acts on eve of court hearing

Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Minister of Finance Dr Nigel Clarke are among those copied on a letter written by secretary of the Jamaica Gaming Association Sudu Ramani to executive director of the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Commission (BGLC) Vitus Evans seeking to have a study commissioned to determine the impact on the Jamaica economy if additional lottery licences are granted.

The action by the Jamaica Gaming Association, which, among other things, represents gambling activities in lounges, follows a court action initiated by Ian Levy, deputy chairman of Supreme Ventures Limited and its subsidiary, Prime Sports, which is asking the court to push the BGLC to do a study to determine whether or not the marketplace can accommodate more lottery companies offering similar games to the public.

The BGLC is considering the granting of a licence to Mahoe Gaming Limited, which has an interest in entering the lucrative lottery market.

The court denied Mahoe Gaming’s bid to join the BGLC as an interested party in the matter last week, but come tomorrow and Tuesday, it will hear the matter brought before it by Levy and Prime Sports against the BGLC.

Ramani, in the letter released to the media said:

“Recent press reports have linked the BGLC to an expedited effort to issue a lottery licence to a new entity. The Jamaica Gaming Association has serious concerns and is calling on your organisation, to immediately commission an independent and transparent study of Jamaica’s gaming and lottery industry with a view to determine the worldwide best practices that are applicable to the local industry and the regulation thereof.

“The members of the Jamaica Gaming Association are of the view that before any material changes take place within the industry, a study needs to be undertaken to determine the effect of additional licences on the sector. As gaming lounge operators we are mindful of the negative effects changes in the lottery model can have on our businesses. This pending competition is expected to see increased payouts by competing lottery operators which will have a negative impact on lounge and route vlt revenues as well as revenues to the government coffers. These high payouts from numbers games may also attract money launderers to the market.

“Additionally, the gaming sector is one of the largest sources of tax revenue in the country. As such, any move that could possibly change the complexion of the industry, should require serious consideration and analysis, to determine overall impact on government revenues and the viability of the sector.

“The BGLC is solely funded by proceeds from the gaming sector, as its regulator, you have to be mindful of the feedback and recommendations of those already in the sector.

“We view, with some suspicion, the speed with which the BGLC is acting to issue this licence, without any regard to worldwide trends to move from multiple to single operators. The vast majority of lottery jurisdictions operate or have moved to a single operator model to maximise government revenues.

“We ask that the you take this under advisement, so we can all do what is best for the industry and the Government and people of Jamaica. It is important for the credibility of the regulator that they act with far greater transparency and probity and provide the public with full details on all applicants so that there can be greater scrutiny as was done in the past.

“Recent media reports indicate that the new applicant has stated that their service provider has already spent in excess of US$3 million without them being granted a licence and to date the BGLC has not made public the name of the service provider as was done in the case of all previous applicants.

“We find this entire situation unsettling and as such we are asking for you to act with expediency. We look forward to your cooperation.”

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