Yesterday, the Minister of Finance called upon the citizens to enter into a “shared sacrifice” contract.

Beginning with David Coore, this will be the 8th Finance Minister in 37 years who has called upon the citizens to sacrifice in the short term for long term reward. So, this latest call begs the question, how much longer Minister? Mark you, there has been progress as this is the first time (at last) that a Finance Minister has acknowledged that the Public Sector has a part to play in this perennial short term sacrificing as never before has the word “shared” been adjectively connected with the call to “sacrifice”.

In our little corner of the Universe (Caymanas Park), the problem with that belated acknowledgment is that nobody but the investors in racing have been doing any sacrifice and theirs has been back-breaking and persistent for over 40 years. The public sector of the industry has been living high off the Hog (no pun intended) forever with no sign of this being “shared” with anyone.

What do I mean? Well, to begin with, why are there two Regulatory Bodies housed on two separate properties in St. Andrew, run by two separate, burgeoning staffs to regulate racing and gambling in Jamaica? The Racing Commission (JRC), with a staff of plenty, has the oh so onerous task of regulating a sport that takes place one half day per week (occasionally 2). It employs a full panel of raceday stewards which is not the function of a regulatory body anywhere else in the world, and actually tries to supervise and manage such day to day tasks as nominations and declarations (again, should be none of their business). Not satisfied with this overabundance of interference with the day to day business of the promotion of races, they have taken onto themselves the operation of a thing called a Hall of Fame for Racing to which inductees are voted for secretly by a select Committee appointed by the Commission. A past Chairman of the JRC was inducted while he was the sitting Chairman.

Hall of Fame? Or Hall of Shame?

The JRC occupies a large commercial property in the Half Way Tree area as does the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Commission (BGLC). Two separate commercial properties to be maintained appears ludicrous when one notes that the Government currently owns 196 acres of land at Caymanas Park at least one half of which is idle. Currently, occupational permit holders with business at the Commissions must travel from St Catherine to St Andrew to transact that business.

The BGLC monitors bookmakers islandwide as well as lotteries and gaming machines. The latter two sets of licensees do not require as much people power as appears at first blush as they are fully online activities that may be monitored from head office on a linked computer. If only the BGLC would insist that Bookies computerize as a condition of a Licence (as is the case worldwide), their activities could also be monitored without any travelling required

So, the JRC needs a humongous staff to regulate one racetrack offering live races one or two half days per week. The BGLC needs the same to monitor online betting activity from a couch in the office. And both are situated as far as possible from the centre of betting in the Country with the consequential travelling and time expenses in order for any meeting to take place. Both Commissions earn a percentage of the betting dollar for “administrative expenses” yet remain on the national budget and cannot afford to subsidize the industries they regulate. The Government takes 25% of the levy paid by Bookies on overseas racing bets for a political slush fund called “athletic games and sports” but there is no money for purse increases.

And there is a “Sports Development Foundation” that has failed to develop any sport over 20 years but in that time has paid massive salaries including to the former Technical Director of our football, Rene Simoes. We also have CHASE, whose ambit of responsibility includes sports development but yet the SDF continues on fully funded. Shared Sacrifice??? Ugh!!

It’s time for the Government to show more than the usual lip service to shared sacrifice. It’s time to abolish the JRC and the BGLC as they are now constituted and to form one amalgamated Racing and Gaming Commission with the core functions of the JRC (after the fluff such as the Hall of Fame has been divested) being the task of a five or six man department of the new Commission. With the modernization of everything in this world especially gambling, there is no need for more than Three Commissioners plus a staff of no more than 15. Currently, both Commissions employ over 100 persons. Doing what??????

The rumoured introduction of Casinos presents a perfect opportunity for this Government to do the right thing and consolidate the functions of all gaming activity under one head. What are the odds that the Government’s concept of shared sacrifice will instead be to leave the JRC and the BGLC as is and create a third Regulatory Body to supervise the Casinos?

The SDF should be also abolished and the CHASE Fund permitted to do its job namely to deal with the development of sport. And finally, Caymanas Park must be removed from the Government’s Budget by way of licensing private enterprise to build and operate a new race track whilst the lands now known as Caymanas Park can be used for low income Government Housing to generate revenues for the Government rather than its current use as an expensive political football.

C’mon Mr Minister. You said “shared sacrifice”. Let’s see you do some of the sharing!!


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