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$1b a year in bets on horse racing

...but State loses millions in tax evasion

By Joel Julien joel.julien@trinidadexpress.com

Trinidadians and Tobagonians spend up to $1 billion a year betting on horse racing, chairman of the Betting Levy Board Kama Maharaj has said.

However, some bookmakers have been involved in a system of tax evasion and the State has been unable to collect its rightful ten per cent share from the billion-dollar industry, Maharaj said yesterday.

Ten per cent of $1 billion is $100 million.

The most taxes the Betting Levy Board has ever been able to collect in one year was $18 million.

That increased tax collection was as a result of "moral persuasion" by the Betting Levy Board.

If the "haemorrhaging" of funds is not properly addressed the country's horse racing industry is liable to collapse, Maharaj said.

He called for the passage of legislation that will ensure fines and penalties are put in place and give the Betting Levy Board "teeth".

Maharaj made the statements yesterday as the Betting Levy Board appeared before the Public Accounts Committee at Tower D of the International Waterfront Centre, Port of Spain.

The Betting Levy Board has dreams of making this country a horse racing "mecca" in the region but this goal is being hampered by the loss of funds due to tax avoidance, Maharaj said.

He said horse racing was a "fantastic tourism product" but the industry could only be built on a strong foundation if taxes were collected.

Maharaj lauded the Arima Race Club for its promotion of horse racing in the country.

However, he slammed "legitimate betting shops for acting like illegal bookmakers".

The Public Accounts Committee was yesterday chaired by Opposition Member of Parliament Colm Imbert.

Apart from Maharaj the Betting Levy Board was represented by chief executive officer Richard Jackson and accountant Norris Galbaran.

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