The trinidad Guardian / Finance Minister Colm Imbert says if the Opposition does not support the effort to regulate the gambling industry, the interim tax measures could become permanent.
During the wind-up on the motion to confirm the Provisional Collection of Taxes Order on Friday night, Imbert said Government only needed a simple majority to make the taxation changes.
He said the taxation was an interim measure and the Government was empowered to impose and raise revenue by way of taxation.
“If you want to make it a permanent measure, it will be if you don’t support the effort to regulate the gambling industry, get rid of money laundering, criminals and leakage of foreign exchange…” Imbert said.
He said the Gaming and Betting Control Bill 2017, which will go before a Joint Select Committee again soon, will look to protect minors and vulnerable people from being harmed from gambling, to prevent gambling from being a source of crime, to ensure consumer protection and provide for collection of taxes among other objectives.
“There is no relationship between the aims and objects of that bill and imposition of taxation as an interim measure.”
Imbert said the Government had adjusted one of the measures in the order, removing the increase in taxes on gaming consoles after the people who used consoles made representations.
“We always listen. The people in the industry made representation and showed that video game consoles were captured in the taxation. We decided we did not want a situation where a child’s toy would be subjected to taxes so we took that out. We listen to sense. We listen to intelligence, but we don’t listen to nonsense.”
Taxes have implications on informal economy-
Couva North MP Rudranath Indarsingh says the closure of recreation clubs or gaming machines could impact the informal economy in communities.
During his contribution in Parliament on the motion to confirm the Provisional Collection of Taxes Order on Friday night, Indarsingh said being familiar with his constituency of Couva South, he was aware that there were a number of recreation clubs.
“In addition to roulette machines, there are a number of amusement games which give a sense of life and growth to these places,” Indarsingh said.
He said as a result, additional employment was created from the point of view of growth of the informal economy.
“If you go outside the bar you will see the oyster man and a small kitchen providing cutters and so on and that provides employment opportunities for single women and families financially challenged.”
He said the imposition of $120,000 per annum on a small bar in Couva South had implications for employment and social implications for families.
“Think of the punitive impact of taxation which he outlined for this specific order.”
Indarsingh said from where he was sitting, he had heard nothing new from the Government.
“I have heard nothing new as it relates to how these revenue generation measures will improve the standard of living or quality of life of citizens.”
Within the last six months 49 people sought treatment for gambling addiction.
This was the information shared by Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh as he read from a National Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Programme (Nadapp) report while speaking on the motion to confirm the Provisional Collection of Taxes Order in Parliament on Friday night.
Deyalsingh said he got some statistics from Nadapp and said it was important to understand what addiction was doing to the country.
“In T&T there are self-help groups and treatment centres. One such group has reported that within the last six months in 2017, 49 people sought treatment for gambling addiction or problem gambling.”
Deyalsingh said for everyone who came forward, there were probably 100 more who had a problem but would not come forward.
Deyalsingh said a further 23 people contacted the group via telephone, among them were two reported cases of attempted suicide as a result of gambling related problems.
He said the majority seeking treatment were males between the ages of 25 and 38 years. The 11 women who sought treatment were between the ages of 24 and 45.
He asked opposition members why they were so “hell-bent” on protecting owners.
Responding to Indarsingh’s comments about casinos contributing to growth, Deyalsingh said that was not the type of growth he wanted to see in the country.
“The life and growth I want to see in communities is more people going to mandirs, mosques and church. I don’t want to see fathers and mothers going to gamble and then coming to MPs offices with their book list.
“This argument about community life and growth. I stood in absolute bewilderment and amazement that they are justifying this by saying people will turn to drink if you turn down the casino, but he doesn’t know they ply you with free drinks. Now, when you run out of money in a local casino but they extend you a line of credit.
“Why are we protecting that?”