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Another prominent businessman joins rush for operating licence


Wednesday, February 26, 2020

PROMINENT businessman Gassan Azan has thrown his hat in the ring for a slice of the multibillion-dollar lottery market.

Days after the Jamaica Observer first reported that an entity — which we can now name as Mahoe Gaming Enterprises Limited — has applied to the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Commission (BGLC) for a licence to challenge Supreme Ventures Limited (SVL) in the local lottery market, Azan confirmed that he also wants a of share the lucrative business.

“Based on recent comments from the executive director of the BGLC [Vitus Evans] we believe that we should apply for a licence as well,” Azan told the Observer yesterday.

“We have been operating gaming lounges for more than 10 years now and I have what is called an 'international fit and proper' clearance from the BGLC, which means I am qualified to operate a lottery. I believe that if they are going to be issuing licences, I should get one.

“I did not apply before because I was of the opinion that it was the Cabinet which had decided that we would have only one national lottery in the country, but in light of what I have seen recently I want to make my case very clear that we need one as well,” added Azan as he pointed to responses from the BGLC to questions from the Observer last October.

At that time the BGLC had noted that “Section 49 (1) of the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Act confers the authority to the BGLC to grant a licence to any person to promote a lottery. No recommendation to, or approval by, the minister responsible for finance is required.”

The BGLC had also indicated that the law does not require any public consultation on the issue of any gaming licence, although checks by our news team showed that this had been done in the past.

In his letter to the BGLC dated February 18, Azan underscored that his company, Sizzling Slots Limited, has operated a prominent gaming lounge, “The Vault”, for years, and has invested heavily in the technology and human resources necessary to make it a success.

According to Azan, his company has long wanted to leverage its expertise and resources in pursuit of other opportunities in Jamaica's gaming sector.

“In this regard, over the last few years we have expended substantial resources to research the viability of extending our gaming portfolio to include a lottery product.  The purpose of this letter is to formally indicate our intention to apply for a licence to operate lottery in Jamaica.

“Accordingly, we hereby request that you advise us by reply of the required form and substance of our application for a licence to operate a lottery,” said Azan.  

In the meantime, Michelle Myers Mayne, who chairs Mahoe Gaming — which has already applied for a lottery licence — has declared that competition in the sector will lead to the expansion of the market through innovation and increased consumer offerings.

In a letter to the Observer Myers Mayne underscored that Mahoe Gaming is a 100 per cent Jamaican-owned entity under her leadership, with directors Paul B (PB) Scott and Lise-Anne Harris.

“Mahoe Gaming seeks to introduce innovative lottery entertainment products to Jamaica,” said Myers Mayne.

“In accordance with all rules and regulations, Mahoe Gaming has applied, and is in the process of seeking approval for, a lottery licence. We respect the process.

“As investors in the Jamaican economy we respect the independence of the regulator, the BGLC, which is tasked with oversight of the gaming industry for the fair benefit of all concerned,” added Myers Mayne.

In 2018, SVL, the sole operator of a national lottery in Jamaica, raked in almost $63 billion in ticket sales, a 12.3 per cent increase over 2017.

The company also paid out a record $6.9 billion in total fees and taxes to the Government in 2018, representing an increase of approximately $800 million over 2017. The 2019 figures have not yet been released by SVL.