“Why does Minister Imbert not address the foreign exchange leakage by the NLCB? According to the terms of their contract, IGT are supposed to transfer technology to locals. Yet, after a 30-year contract, no such transfer has occurred and Trinidad and Tobago continues to lose over US$350m annually.”
The following Letter to the Editor, which is a reaction to the government’s 2018 Budget proposal to sharply increase taxes on the Gaming Industry, was submitted to Wired868 by Sherry Persad, who is the President of the Trinidad and Tobago Members Clubs Association (TTMCA):
Minister Colm Imbert and Prime Minister Keith Rowley in the Budget closure held hard and fast to their draconian and punitive taxation measures on the Gaming Industry. In both of their statements, they continued to regurgitate a litany of untruths and misrepresent the Gaming Industry.
Minister Imbert has acted as judge, jury and executioner in the case against the Gaming Industry. Despite numerous attempts the Trinidad and Tobago Members Clubs Association (TTMCA) has made to try to arrange meaningful meetings with the Minister of Finance and the Prime Minister to discuss the gaming industry, there has been no response.
Instead, the Minister met with the TTMCA very briefly at the Joint Select Committee where no real discussion on the details of the industry took place.
Comfortable in his ignorance of the Gaming Industry and with an aesthetic of arrogance, Minister Imbert accused the casino “owners” of exploiting our workers.
Firstly, Members Clubs are owned by the members and not by a single owner; the clubs all have a management committee to run their affairs. Secondly, the TTMCA categorically and unreservedly rejects the idea that we exploit our employees or force them to protest against the despicable taxes by Minister Imbert.
Our employees are well paid and taken care of and are protesting because they know that the foolish taxes conceptualised in ignorance will destroy the industry and cost them their jobs.
In true Trumpian style, Minister Imbert accused the Gaming Industry of being owned by “foreigners,” who are leaking foreign exchange out of the country. The TTMCA wishes to state that the majority of members clubs are 90% local and there is a minority of foreign involvement.
But what exactly is wrong with foreigners investing in Trinidad and Tobago? Minister Imbert has no issue with BP, BG, Shell, Repsol, KFC, Starbucks, Pricesmart, Wendy’s or IGT and many other foreign companies operating in our country.
IGT is most interesting as it supplies the support for the NLCB online games and there is annual foreign exchange haemorrhage of US$350 million annually. Why does Minister Imbert not address the foreign exchange leakage by the NLCB?
According to the terms of their contract, IGT are supposed to transfer technology to locals. Yet, after a 30-year contract, no such transfer has occurred and Trinidad and Tobago continues to lose over US$350m annually. At best, Imbert’s Trumpian logic is hypocritical.
The TTMCA calls on Minister Imbert to deal frontally and immediately with the US$350m which leaves this country every year via NLCB since the country cannot afford it. We also ask the Minister to deny publicly that this is so.
Minister Imbert’s and Prime Minister Rowley’s desperation for money has driven them to see only the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago as the source of their quick fix. The issue in the gaming industry remains one of enforcement and compliance with existing laws. Tax collection is low in the industry as there is no enforcement. If the government is serious about increasing revenues, it will put measures in place to increase the collection of taxes owed.
Merely increasing taxes will not make those who are not now paying taxes pay; instead, it will drive the industry further underground and drive others out of business, adding to the economic challenges of the country.