PUBLIC Accounts Committee (PAC) chairman Dr Bhoe Tewarie was yesterday shocked to learn the state cannot access $23 billion in revenue from the country’s gambling sector. Tewarie got this shock during a PAC public hearing with National Lotteries Control Board (NLCB) officials at Tower D of the Port of Spain International Waterfront Centre. NLCB director Michael Jogee said the sector’s total size is $25.6 billion. Company chairman Eustace Nancis said the NLCB’s revenue last year was $3 billion. NLCB financial comptroller Wendy Dwarika said the lowest revenue NLCB received in the last decade was $1.4 billion in 2008.
All of the NCLB’s surplus is remitted to the government, 93 per cent to the Comptroller of Accounts and seven per cent to the Sports and Culture Fund. NLCB online manager Rolph Clarke said none of the company’s 1,000 terminals in TT is losing money. But he admitted that some may not be earning as much income as others. Nancis said the NLCB’s main competition comes from illegal whe whe operators. He said, “They do not contribute to the ten per cent tax that we are charged.” Jogee said legal gambling houses pay contributions to the Finance Ministry. They do not operate through the NLCB. “So you have a monopoly in the games that you play but you don’t have a monopoly on gambling?” Tewarie asked. “ That’s correct,” Jogee replied. PAC members learnt that the NLCB accounts for only 12 per cent of the gaming sector’s revenues. Casinos, whe whe operators, roulette machines in casinos, casino slot machines, bars with roulette machines and horse racing account for two, five, 14, 29 and zero per cent of the sector’s revenues respectively.
Tewarie asked whether this meant $23 billion was “outside of the control and jurisdiction of the NLCB.” Jogee replied, “It would seem so chairman.” Jogee said this information was compiled last year by the Finance Ministry’s Gaming Task Force. He agreed with Tewarie’s view this was related to the Gambling Control Bill 2016. The bill is currently before another parliamentary joint select committee. Clarke said NLCB has been speaking with the police about dealing with illegal whe whe operators.
He also said NLCB is treating with reports that robberies at some of its terminals were “self managed.” Clarke claimed there may be situations where people may be prepared to take a blow to the head, to pocket money for their own gains.