Jamaican gaming industry scores big time

By Al Edwards

Friday, February 28, 2014    

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At a time when the Jamaican government is finding it difficult to garner sufficient revenues, the Betting Gaming and Lotteries Commission (BGLC) has valiantly charged in as a white knight bolstering revenues from a buoyant local gaming industry.

Through the Consolidated Fund, Betting Gaming and Lotteries, Chase Fund and Jamaica Racing Commission, the government saw an increase in taxes from J$2.9 billion last year to J$4.1 billion in the current year.

As the special guest speaker at the Rotary Club of St Andrew North Luncheon this week, the Chairman of the BGLC, Gary Peart said that for the year 2013 to 2014 the BGLC will pay out a capital distribution of J$360 million, a whopping improvement on the meagre J$26.5 million garnered in the previous year.

Peart further explained: "For the period 2012-2013, our surplus distribution to the Ministry of Finance from the previous year's earnings was a dividend at 5 per cent or $6.5 million and our capital distribution was $20 million, for a total of $26.5 million. So far, for the current fiscal year 2013-2014, we have paid out a capital distribution of $210.15 million and we project another 150 million in capital distribution to the MOFP at the end of this fiscal year. This would bring the total distribution to the MOFP for the period 2013 -2014 to over $360 million as opposed to last year's $26.5 million."

Peart has sought to imbued the BGLC with greater efficiencies and make it a more potent organisation with greater attention paid to regulation. He has sent a message that miscreants will not go unnoticed and that illegal activities will be dealt with accordingly. He has stamped his imprimatur as the J.Edgar Hoover of Jamaican gaming.

Addressing the subject he said, "In the area of enforcement, we have seen a reduction in illegal activities with the hiring of a new Director and several Investigators for the Division. This may account for the 47 per cent increase in arrests, the 67 per cent increase in cash seized (benefiting the GOJ) and the 18 per cent increase in convictions between March and December 2013, compared to the same period in 2012. There has also been a 31 per cent increase in the number of voluntary reports received from the public and licensees, of breaches and suspicious activities.

"Some of the persons charged within the last few months have been persons of interest involved in the sale of illegal Cash Pot tickets, who have eluded our authorities for several years. In the function of performing Due Diligence Investigations, in 2012, the expanded team of Investigators were able to systematically and methodically clear a 2 year backlog that had accumulated during the time of the understaffed Enforcement team."

Gaming lounges have proven to be most lucrative in Jamaica and Gassan Asan's "The Vault"and other gaming enterprises as well as the Hussey's " Monte Carlo" lounge in the Terra Nova Hotel will attest to. They certainly bring in a lot of coin!

Peart noted, " the slot machine /gaming business is a very profitable one, with machines programmed to pay out an average of between 93 - 96 per of their intake, a percentage that meets favour with the operators, owners and obviously,players.

"Notwithstanding the recent closure of one of the oldest gaming lounges in St.James, gaming lounge operators, particularly in Montego Bay, have recorded significant growth; surpassing the growth of all lounges in the rest of the islandcombined. Our records show the city of Montego Bay had an increase of 347 or 46 per cent in the number of machines growing from 742 in 2012/13 to 1099 in the year 2013/14, compared to an increase of only 1,301 or 20 per cent across the rest of the island, which grew from 6,504 to 7,805 machines."

The Gaming Industry as a whole is made up of four sectors: Betting, Gaming Machines, Prize Promotions and Lotteries.

Peart revealed that prior to March 2013, in the lotteries sector, unclaimed winnings were apportioned 50:50 - licensee (SVL) and Chase Fund. Effective March 2013, the apportionment is now 50:50 - BGLC (Consolidated Fund) and Chase Fund.

Sunday Lottery was introduced effective April 1, 2013 and for the period April to December 2013, the total revenue earned amounted to $329 million and accounted for a 9.7 increase in total revenue earned from the lottery sector.

Total Sales in all 4 sectors of the Gaming Industry, for 2012 was $28.136 billion with Government taxes earned amounting to $2.989 billion or 11%. In 2013 the combined sector earnings totalled $32.98 billion, with taxes amounting to $4.121 billion.

A lot has been made about unclaimed winnings. Peart disclosed that in 2008/09 unclaimed winnings were 238 million. The following year 2009/2010 it fell to $64 million. The year 2010/2011 aw it climb again to $73.34 million and it increased again in 2011/2012 to $117 million.





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