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Supreme Ventures denies ownership of Diamond Mile

BY BALFORD HENRY
Senior staff reporter
balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Following the publication of concerns raised in Parliament last week by Opposition MP Lisa Hanna about Government sponsorship of horse racing at Caymanas Park, the current operators of the track, Supreme Ventures Group (SVG) has issued a statement on the matter.

According to SVG, its subsidiary, Supreme Ventures Racing & Entertainment Limited (SVREL), is the main sponsor of the annual Diamond Mile race, which is a proprietary event of the government-owned Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Commission (BGLC).

“Supreme Ventures is a main sponsor of the event which is owned and operated by the BGLC,” the SVG release said. SVG also clarified that it has not “taken over” the racing industry in Jamaica, as suggested by Hanna, but operates the track through its lease under SVREL.

Hanna raised the issue in the House of Representatives on Monday when its Standing Finance Committee (SFC), which seats all 63 Members of Parliament, held its annual review of the government's expenditure budget for 2019/20.

She asked Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Dr Nigel Clarke, why the Government has been spending $70 million a year on the Diamond Mile, the richest local race run each year at Jamaica's only horse racing track, Caymanas Park.

Hanna questioned the figures provided in the Jamaica Public Bodies, which showed that the BGLC would be increasing its sponsorship of the annual eight-furlong race from $70 million to $80 million this year.

“Why are we paying $70 million every year, and $80 million this year, for a race if that entity has been divested and privatised?” Hanna asked, making reference to the general belief that fthe race track had been taken over by Supreme Ventures Limited since February 2017.

Dr Clarke said that it seemed that the BGLC had been sponsoring the race for “a very long time, and it has sort of continued”.

However, he assured her that he would look into the matter and informed her, subsequently. The SVG statement said: “Supreme Ventures Group today clarified that the company has leased the promoting company, Caymanas Track Ltd, from the Government.

The company also wishes to clarify that they have not “taken over” the racing industry in Jamaica, but operates the Track through its lease under its subsidiary Supreme Ventures Racing & Entertainment Limited.

“The company further clarified that the Diamond Mile is a proprietary event of the BGLC, conceptualised and formulated by them in 2015, primarily to revitalise and support the racing industry which comprises breeders, owners, trainers, jockeys, grooms, and many other stakeholder groups.

“Supreme Ventures is a main sponsor of the event which is owned and operated by the BGLC. The company says as sponsor of this important horse racing event, SVL has provided support to the brainchild of BGLC as the event has boosted the livelihood of not just trainers, punters and owners but also the Jamaicans who reside in the surrounding communities of Caymanas Park.

“While it is Ms Hanna's right to question matters of this nature in the House of Representatives, we wish to clarify and ensure that there are no misinterpretations, misleading statements or incorrect conclusions that could be extracted regarding such an important industry.

“As a Jamaican company, we will continue to invest and play our part in boosting the racing industry to ensure its viability and growth.”

SVG edged out Caymanas Racing and Entertainment, a group of investors headed by Hanna's husband, businessman and race horse owner and breeder, Richard Lake, in the bid for the takeover of the track in January, 2016.