A day after Finance Minister Colm Imbert announced that the tax man was going after the local gambling and gaming industry, the TT Members Clubs Association (TTMCA) yesterday announced that lay-offs and the closure of some small members clubs (casinos) plus downsizing of large ones, will take place.
The association says its members agreed to these and other measures after “an intense discussion” during an emergency meeting convened yesterday over the punitive income taxes that have been unilaterally imposed upon the Gaming Industry by Imbert. This brings to life concerns expressed earlier yesterday by the Union of Members Clubs and Lottery Workers (UMCLW).
The union warned about “massive job losses” if Government goes ahead with its, “oppressive and harsh taxation.” On Monday, Imbert announced a 100 percent increase in the rate of duty paid on all mechanical games effective October 20. January 1, is the implementation date for increasing the annual gaming tax per amusement game from $3,000 to $6,000. January 1, is also the implementation date for an increase in taxes paid on gaming tables and other devices by private members clubs.
The TTMCA said it will be requesting, in writing, an urgent meeting with Imbert and Prime Minister Keith Rowley to discuss implications of these taxes on the industry. In addition, it will write to the Joint Select Committee of Parliament on the Gambling (Gaming and Betting) Control Bill 2016, asking that it be “re-heard” on the proposed legislation and taxation measures, “given the new taxes in the Budget”.
A letter will be also be sent to Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar, asking the Opposition to “withhold its required support” for the Bill, pending a comprehensive review of the revised/new taxes.
The TTMCA said international casino operators have indicated if there is no change in the tax, they will consider pulling out of TT. Operators of small casinos, present at the emergency meeting announced their immediate closure and termination of all staff. The TTMCA has sought legal advice on its options. The Amusement Gaming Association of Trinidad and Tobago (AGATT); which represents bar owners and gaming operators, yesterday joined their colleagues in condemning the new taxes. Arguing there is no justification for the increase, AGATT rejected Imbert’s statement about a ten percent tax compliance rate.
“We are regulated under the Liquor License Act, which mandates that bar owners have to pay taxes for machines in their bars before their licenses can be renewed.”
AGATT warned that in the current harsh economic environment, higher taxes will lead to bar closures and staff cuts. “Essentially, we are being taxed out of business,” AGATT declared.