Fri | Dec 15, 2017

Racing merger underway

Published:Wednesday | October 29, 2014 | 12:00 AM

The Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Commission (BGLC) is to be merged with the Jamaica Racing Commission (JRC) in keeping with the recommendation of the Public Sector Master Rationalisation Plan.

"The merger of the JRC and the BGLC is being effected as we speak," Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips told parliamentarians in the House of Representatives yesterday.

The minister, who was responding to a comment from Audley Shaw, the opposition spokesman on finance, said it would be a "partial merger", and both entities would "fuse their management and back-room operations".

"They are going to move operations into a single location; they are going to share the critical administrative staff, and that is under way now," Phillips said.

The BGLC is charged with regulating and controlling the operations of betting and gaming and the conduct of lotteries in Jamaica. Similarly, the JRC exists to regulate the horse racing industry.

"There is some legislative amendment that is necessary to effect complete merger of the two entities, and I expect that to be concluded shortly."

In a 2011 report prepared for the Cabinet, the Public Sector Transformation Unit placed the JRC and the BGLC among 20 entities recommended for mergers as part of a move to reform the public sector. The unit also recommended the privatisation of 13 entities, the abolition of seven, and for 10 to have their services contracted out.

During a debate on two betting-related regulations in the House yesterday, Shaw said the merger of the entities was "one of the cost-cutting exercises that is clearly needed".

DIVESTMENT STILL ONCARDS

Meanwhile, Phillips told the House that the divestment of Caymanas Track Limited is under way.

"The analysis has been done and it is ultimately the intention of the administration, as soon as the enterprise team makes a recommendation, to proceed quickly in this matter".

Opposition Member of Parliament Karl Samuda, who is a breeder of thoroughbred horses, said he was anxiously awaiting the divestment to take place.

"All that has been said in the past, nothing will be achieved unless [the] Government comes out of horse racing. Government must find its way out of horse racing," Samuda said.

Earlier this year, the Government said it was willing to consider any proposal for the divestment of Caymanas Track Limited (CTL), which would involve relocating the racetrack.

"We are not opposed to building a brand-new track while this track is operating, creating jobs while operation is going on Ö and then close that one and send the other one to it," said Horace Dalley, minister with responsibility for the public sector.

Dalley told Parliament that there have been two expressions of interest to date: one from the Racing Divestment Committee (a local stakeholder group), and the other from Britnelle Development Group LLC (Maryland, USA) for the acquisition of CTL.

Yesterday, Phillips said it was fully recognised that the horse-racing industry was not one where "Government ownership has any place".

He said the enterprise team had secured an analysis of the Caymanas Track valuation and he was awaiting its recommendation.

"It is a matter of some urgency because, quite frankly, I don't believe there can be any justification for taking money out of the Consolidated Fund to try to maintain these institutions," Phillips said.

"We are committed to maintaining the industry but as an independently operated entity," he added.

daraine.luton@gleanerjm.com