On June 28, 2016, the Privy Council delivered its judgment in the case of The United Policyholders Group and others (the Appellants) v The Attorney General of Trinidad and Tobago (the Respondent...
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Betting shops in war with government over tax
Competition, which has been described as unfair, has forced Betting Shops to keep their doors shut according to owner of Fairchance Racing Service, Peter George.
George said yesterday said that two shops, Bob’s Racing Service in San Juan and Ascot Racing Service in Marabella, have both gone out of business while another eight, including his own business on Queen Street, will remain closed until government finds time to meet with them to sort out the long standing grouse over a ten percent tax that has been making punters angry and causing a major decline in business.
Some 300 workers have been affected by the decision to keep doors closed, according to George.
“The existing legislation is not workable, it is obsolete and no good to the racing fraternity. The Betting Levy Board (BLB) is requesting more and more taxes from the pools and this is burdensome. We even get threats from the BLB but the long and short of it, is we cannot pay more than we are collecting."
George said the action taken is to get the attention of Government, “because we need to have discourse about the legislation”. He said:
“Everyone knows we need to have this legislation changed immediately. The racing pools are not making the money it used to make in years gone by and in the last decade we have seen the closure of at least ten pools. We cannot go on with the ten percent turnover tax. It is hurting racing.”
George called on government to initiate a flat licence fee. “Racing Pools are not making money and in many cases they are losing money. The ten percent tax is a burden to the punters and as you are aware the volume of betting in the country has decreased. Nowhere in the world is there a turnover tax. In the Caribbean, Jamaica, Barbados or Guyana does such a tax exist. This is impacting negatively on the industry.”
He said the tax has led to a big underground betting Network. “They pay no taxes when they bet underground," he noted.
George said the network has gotten braver and braver. “They are coming into our establishment and soliciting our clients with the no tax initiative. We want the betting shops to survive and the illegal move of refunding the punters turn over tax must stop. It is illegal.”
He said betting volume has dropped by 40 percent since 2011 due to competition from the casinos, with their slot machines.
“They have free drinks and free food to entice the punter and he can sit and play the slots all day. For the industry to survive we need to meet with the government and work out something which is amicable to all and will ensure that many more workers will be employed and not sent home. The ball is now in the government’s court.”