The Dr Keith Rowley-led administration will press ahead with its domestic tourism agenda despite efforts by some leading industry stakeholders to scupper the initiative.
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Casino fees to double—Howai
Casino operators will soon have to pay twice as much for a licence—$200,000— and a $500,000 deposit in order to operate under gaming industry regulations, Finance Minister Larry Howai signalled yesterday.
Howai spoke about the measures and other revenue -raising incentives while piloting a finance bill in Parliament. The legislation seeks to effect certain measures and incentives for the provisional collection of taxes involved in the 2013-2014 Budget. It stipulates amendments to 17 pieces of legislation on various sectors, including gaming. Howai said the casino sector was a $2 billion industry employing thousands via 6,000 operators and 25,000 gaming machines.
A gaming authority will be established to supervise the sector. In the short term, Howai said, a betting licence for operation will be increased from $100,000 to $200,000. He noted the fee is currently the same as it was in 1995 and will be adjusted in keeping with inflation since 1995. Government is also introducing a $500,000 deposit which operators will have to pay and top up or risk losing certification and dismissal of a club’s secretary.
Clubs will have to display an Inland Revenue Board (BIR) tag on all gaming tables and machines. From December 15, 2014, taxes will have to be paid in a lump sum and not quarterly. Howai said pool tables will not be subject to the regulations. Some premises —wine bars and restaurants—will be allowed to host amusement games. On another issue, littering fines especially for dumping derelict vehicles and similar violations, will increase from a low of $200 to maximum fines of $4,000 and $8,000.
Howai said by year-end, T&T could recover economic ground lost between 2008 and 2009. He said GDP projection is $177 billion and by the end of 2015 all lost ground would be recovered. He said there has been growth, including in non-energy sectors, and the Heritage and Stabilisation Fund is over US$5 billion. Gross international reserves are US$10 billion. All other macro economic indicators are doing exceptionally well, he added.
Howai said unemployment is at an historic 3.7 per cent low and 13,000 new businesses were registered in 2013. Inflation is also down, to 3.9 per cent, and food inflation has also dropped. He supported the International Monetary Fund’s recent reports on the economy after its recent visit.