Lotto agents have called on Finance Minister Colm Imbert to investigate the finance department at the National Lotteries Control Board (NLCB), increase their commission, remove existing bank charges and act seriously on illegal Play Whe.
President of the Lotto Agents Association (TTLAA) Allan Campbelle said, during a protest outside the NLCB in Port of Spain on Thursday, that they have complained about these issues for the past nine years.
He claimed agents were losing billions of dollars because of unauthorised gambling based on NLCB's Play Whe."Agents are suffering financially as illegal Play Whe takes away about $3.8 billion per year in sales, running as a parallel industry," Campbelle said.
Illegal operators are not taxed as agents are, which adds to their financial burden, he said.
"All NLCB is doing is suppressing people (agents) machine and send out letters that we owe something called win tax— 10 per cent tax charge from wining over $1,000—but the illegal Play Whe operators don't (pay) taxes."
Some agents have also been told they owe taxes which Campbelle said raised questions about the accounting at NLCB's finance department.
"Over the years, NLCB has built up claims, from nowhere, saying that some agents owe them when that is not true. This is because of NCLB's financial department was mismanaged. We have reached a stage where we are fed up with having meetings with NLCB and they just keep promising us."
Another issue raised was no help for agents whose operations were affected during the lockdown due to covid19 restrictions.
He said NLCB promised to consider their request for relief grant assistance.
"We sent a letter on May 20. We met with them in June and they said that they wanted one month. It's months now and they tell us, by official letter, that they have to work out something and then sell it to the finance minister. That might take another three months."
Campbelle said agents were suffering as sales have dropped.
"Just after the restrictions were lifted, we saw an under seven per cent decline and they keep giving us a run-around telling us the board has to meet, the directors have to submit and adjust planners."
Additionally, agents are concerned about security when depositing their earnings.
In 2019, lotto agents threatened to close down their machines if arrangements weren't in place to ensure their safety making deposits. The agents were asked to make their deposits over the counter at First Citizen Bank (FCB) after Scotiabank only offered night deposits. The agents preferred to deposit the cash inside the bank, with staff present. Campbelle said the agents were recently told that as of August 2, FCB would only accept night deposits from them.
"These banks are not accepting over-the-counter deposits and the only option is night deposits, which is a great risk for all agents. We don't like how the NLCB operating overall. They have been giving out machines to agents in terminals nearby. This causing agents to fight each other for sales."
Attempts to reach the Finance Minister were unsuccessful.