THE administration of the racing industry, along with private betting shops, is expected to change by the New Year in a bid to resuscitate the flagging industry, with casino-style operations also falling under the new body.
This has come about as Government attempts to address the social concerns arising out of the proliferation of private members clubs (PMCs) providing casino-style games.
The Ministry of Finance, along with a Cabinet-appointed working group and a civil society group, has developed a discussion paper which is designed to lead to a policy document and, ultimately, draft legislation for the regulation of the gaming industry in Trinidad and Tobago, coming under a Betting and Gaming Commission.
The announcement of these implementations for the T&T gambling and gaming industry is expected to be made in this year’s national budget in September.
The racing industry will fall under this proposal as its promoters, Arima Race Club (ARC), is a private members club.
The bodies mandated to look into the gambling aspect have recognised that the concept of PMCs promoting racing has not worked, for a variety of reasons. They have recommended that the ARC be replaced by a special purpose company to promote live horse racing.
The company will be managed by a board of directors comprising nine members, six of whom will be appointed by Government and three by the ARC.
The company will lease the Santa Rosa Park complex at Arima for a nominal fee and the articles and memorandum of association shall state the purpose and objective of the company and outline the operational guidelines.
The arrangement shall be a condition for financial assistance to be provided by Government to the horse racing industry. Presently, the industry is subsidised through the Betting Levy Board (BLB), which collects taxes from bets placed on live local racing and the simulcast of English and American racing.
Under this new proposal, the licensing of the promoters of local racing and its off-track betting shops (OTBs), as well as the licensing of private bookmakers, will fall under the remit of the Betting and Gaming Commission.
The function of the Commission will include that which was performed by the BLB and the Trinidad and Tobago Racing Authority (TTRA). And a first tribunal will be established to hear certain matters, which may be referred to the Commission on appeal.
These matters will include appeals (such as the disqualification of horse or jockey) that would have been heard by the TTRA.
In the past, licensing of betting shops was handled by the chief magistrate and the BLB collected the taxes, but in future it will be under the umbrella of the Commission.
The legislation will also be expanded to provide for the licensing of corporations as bookmakers, which the existing legislation does not provide.
In such cases, due diligence will be extended to board members, related companies and interlocking directorships.
For example, private betting shops have a representative on the BLB, but that person is not a licensed operator of any betting shop in T&T. Under the proposed legislation, that will change and any person seeking a betting shop licence will have to fulfill the financial requisite and this process is aimed to prevent money laundering and/or any ties to money laundering operations or illicit dealings.
The legislation is also to fulfill compliance with international anti-money laundering regulations and restriction of criminal and corrupt elements from the sector.
It was also recognised that the ARC now pays a daily fee to operate its OTBs, while the private betting shops pay a flat fee. The legislation will be amended to provide for the promoter to pay an annual flat fee, in addition to the taxes collected.
Some of the benefits to be derived from establishing
a Betting and Gaming Commission are:
\ Creation of new jobs
\ Development of new products within the racing sector
\ Increased revenue for Government