USUALLY, when a patron at a casino has a bad string of luck and runs out of money, he could go to a manager and request a line of credit. Depending on the customer, it would be given to them with the promise that they would pay it back as soon as their luck changes. Now, with casinos and restaurants re-opening after a three-month lockdown, and taxes and business costs draining what is left of casino owners’ coffers, casinos themselves are asking for a line of credit from government, until their luck changes.
President of the TT Members Club Association and Director of Ma Pau Casino, Sherry Persad, explained to Newsday that, contrary to popular belief, casinos are subject to hefty taxes and that, combined with a three-month shut-down of operations, has left the casino industry “with its pants down.”
“This lock down period has put serious strain on casinos and their staff,” Persad said.
“All our reserves are gone and we had to shut down for three months. We have written again on behalf of the association for some kind of dialogue on how we can address that. We are asking for government to give us something, a line of credit or something. The same way they helped other businesses and they want everyone to get back on their feet give us the same assistance.”
Persad explained that while the TT gaming industry is unregulated, casinos still fall under the Registration of Clubs Act which requires them to pay taxes on all machines, devices, roulette machines and card tables at the beginning of the year, unlike other businesses which pay their taxes based on their profit.
Each slot machine is taxed $24,000. Each card table is taxed $50,000. Each roulette machine, $100,000.
“We would have paid millions of dollars in taxes at the beginning of the year,” Persad said.
She said while the taxes would have covered them for the entire year, and allowed them to replenish their coffers from the proceeds of their business, the three-month stay-at-home order led them to shut down their operations, putting several casinos and about 5,000 people directly employed in the industry on the bread line.
“You have technicians, food and beverage staff, cashiers, receptionists, floor staff, cleaners, maintenance, DJ’s, and others.”
She said several people employed in casinos are single mothers, and have not received salary relief cheques yet. In her role as director of Ma Pau, she said her company has done all it could to assist their staff, through financial assistance, and hampers.
“As you well know Ma Pau has always been going the extra mile for our customers, staff and our communities. Once we have we will give.”
Persad said although opening hours for casinos have been limited to the 10 pm deadline, they are still doing everything they could to ensure that all staff are allowed to come out to work.
She said management at Ma Pau adjusted rosters to allow employees to come out at least three days a week, instead of the normal five-day work week so they will not have to send anyone home.
Casinos would not be open in their fullest capacity and would still have to limit the amount of customers coming in, but sanitation centres have been installed, and partitions were placed between machines.
Persad said as soon as restrictions are further lifted, staff will be given more hours.
“Right now we are just happy that we could come out,” Persad said “We are trusting in the government and the CMO.
“They have done a wonderful job so far.
“We are trusting in a short space of time they will open further. We have very few cases here so they clearly know what they are doing.”