04/12/2012 : BOOKIES ARE NOT PAYING THEIR WAY, CLAIMS CARIBBEAN LEVY BOARD
 
Horse race betting shops are evading the racing levy, say Trinidad and Tobago politicians
 
Trinidad and Tobago horse race betting shops could soon find their wings clipped for resisting and evading the payment requirements of the Betting Levy Board (BLB).
 
The issue was raised this week in the Caribbean island nation's Parliament at a sitting of the Public Accounts Committee, where BLB chairman Kama Maharaj claimed: “Knowledgeable people have calculated that we should be collecting $1 billion.”
 
Betting shops have been getting away with paying taxes because there is no legalization empowering the board to collect them, said Maharaj. “We have no teeth,” he complained.  “We are going to ask Cabinet to enact legalization to allow us to collect taxes.”
 
He described the situation as a “nightmare” that has stymied the growth of the local horse-racing industry, resulting in horses being sold and trainers and jockeys migrating to greener pastures in north America.
 
"14 jockeys have migrated to the United States and Canada,” Maharaj disclosed, adding that a  PricewaterhouseCoopers report for 2008-2009 had found that the board’s assets declined from $22 million to $10 million.
 
Maharaj explained that each person who places a bet has to pay an extra amount in taxes which is supposed to go to the BLB, and constitutes a major source of income for the board.
 
“We are supposed to be collecting $100 million but we would be happy with half that," he said, revealing that the board has been collecting a total of around $15 million annually from betting shops, and only after much “gentle persuasion” the figures have increased to $18 million.
 
However, following an adverse court ruling which went against the BLB, collections have declined, with betting shop owners resisting the board's attempts to claim payments, hence the need for specific empowering legalization.
 
Horse racing on the island has been taking place for over a century, and it is a popular sport that employs some 12 to 15 000 people, the BLB official said, claiming that it has the potential to become a centre for horse racing in the Caribbean region.
 
“Part of the board’s plan is to set up betting shops all over the Caribbean, all the way to Belize,” Maharaj said.