Sun | Apr 30, 2017

Richard Lake not sure whether to punt on second bid for Caymanas Track

Published:Wednesday | May 20, 2015 | 5:00 AM
Caymanas Park in St Catherine.

Businessman and racehorse owner Richard Lake and lottery company Supreme Ventures Limited are being touted separately as likely bidders for Caymanas Track Limited, the operating company for the Caymanas Park horse racing track in St Catherine.

If either of them follow through, it would be their second attempt to acquire the 196-acre property in just over a decade. Bids are due by early July.

Lake said Tuesday that he has been approached by several individuals to partner on a bid but that he was still undecided.

He said, however, that his vision for the property basically remains the same as 11 years ago, when the Jamaican Government first put the racetrack up for sale. Then there were two groups of bidders - one led by Lake and the other by Richard Azan in partnership with Supreme Ventures - both of whom were rejected for not meeting the threshold set by Government for the bids.

Sonia Davidson, the head of communications for Supreme Ventures Limited, did not follow through on promised responses to queries on the lottery company's interest in bidding up to press time.

Lake said his vision a decade ago was to convert the track from a single-income business to one that operates "24 seven" with different revenue streams.

"There is not much that is new than to revisit the plan and the work that was done before," he said.

The track currently brings in revenue of more than $4 billion but is projecting that will rise above $5 billion because of

$1 billion of expected inflows from bookmakers under its pari-mutuel operations, as indicated in the Jamaica Public Bodies Report.

The Development Bank of Jamaica (DBJ), which launched its request for bids in mid-May, is positioning Caymanas Park as an asset with potential to be transformed into a racing, gaming and entertainment facility target at Jamaicans at home and abroad.

CTL is the sole promoter of horse racing in Jamaica and broadcasts local and simulcast racing from Florida, New York, California, Arizona and Phila-delphia, offering 900 "on-track" races per annum and 10,500 overseas races annually.

The company facilitates pari-mutuel pool betting - a system in which all bets of a particular type are placed in a pool - on local horse racing both on-track and at its 61 off-track betting (OTB) locations.

Deadline for applications is noon July 6.

President of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders' Association of Jamaica, Howard Hamilton, said Tuesday he was not interested in bidding but holds the view that the property has potential as a major tourist attraction.

The racetrack has changed hands several times, most ending in bankruptcy. Then in 1989, the Government formed CTL, which leased Caymanas Park's plant and assets with options to purchase under the leadership of Danny Melville.

The company continues to be a lossmaker, bleeding $98 million in in FY 2014 and $57 million in FY 2015, according to data published by the Ministry of Finance, but some of those losses were cauterised by grants from the Jamaican government - $60 million in FY 2014 and $58 in FY 2015.

No subsidies are booked for this fiscal year.

avia.collinder@gleanerjm.com