Divestment of the Caymanas Park Racing complex seems to be once again the topic of conversation. It seems that new 'experts' have been mandated to come up with recommendations by some date in October.
What is also of interest is the reported granting of a new license to an applicant to carry wagering on racing simulcast from the United States.
What is unique (to Jamaica) is that the wagering will go directly into the pool at the track from whom the races have been simulated.
This seems to me to be an excellent innovation and should certainly offer the wagering public better value for money than that currently being offered by the local promoters.
The one stipulation that I would like to see is a reciprocal sending of our signals to those tracks from whom we will be receiving signals. This, of course, will call for some major changes in how we package our product.
The most important change, long over due is to bring our takeout in line with that of our new competitors. Last week I gave some comparisons but the reproduction was somewhat garbled. Below I will once again show the comparisons:
I have tried to give a mix of tracks some of whom don't boast the level of Jamaica's turnover with some 90 race days per year. Neither the promoters nor the Government seem to understand the churn effect that emanates from a lower takeout.
Wherever lower takeouts have been implemented, the result has been an increase in overall business and customer satisfaction, not to mention increased revenue for government and horseracing promoters.
Maybe this new competition will precipitate the action needed. Another important change that will be necessary if our product is to be accepted overseas is the presentation of data. This will have to be in line with the format used by the Daily Race Form, the publication with which the market is most familiar. Simulcasting our product overseas is the only way to achieve any significant growth in the turnover. Anything else is merely tinkering.
On the subject of divestment, I would like to share with you my experience with the recent divestment of a wholly-owned Govern-ment company of which I have been chairman for a number of years, I don't know how many of you saw the report that came out in the press some time in August. Excerpts of that release make interesting reading:
The Government of Jamaica is pleased to announce the restructuring of the State-Owned National Rums of Jamaica Ltd., (NRJ) the holding company of Clarendon Distillers Ltd., Long Pond Distillers Ltd. and Innswood Distillery Ltd. (collectively the NRJ Group).
Under agreements signed with Demerara Distillers Ltd. of Guyana, The West Indies Rum Distillery Ltd. (a subsidiary of Goddard Enterprises Ltd. of Barbados) and DIAGEO North America Inc. (a subsidiary of Diageo PLC the World's largest Spirit Company), the three investors will bring new equity investments totaling U.S.$5.368 million to the NRJ Group.
With the injection of this new capital, Demerara Distillers Ltd., The West Indies Rum Distillery Ltd. and the State-Owned National Sugar Company Ltd. will each own 33.3 per cent of the shares in NRJ.
NRJ will hold 73 per cent of the shares in Clarendon Distillers Ltd. at Monymusk with 27 per cent held by Diageo North America Inc., through its subsidiary Trelawny Estates Ltd. Long Pond Distillers Ltd. and Inswood Distillery Ltd. will continue to be wholly-owned subsidiaries of NRJ.
This new investment capital along with funding from the European Union's Integrated Development Programme for the Caribbean rum sector will be utilised to finance a major modernisation and expansion programme of the NRJ Group. NRJ, which is a leading supplier of Jamaican bulk rum, is also looking to develop a brand portfolio in order to facilitate its entry into the value-added market.
The board of directors of NRJ will be restructured to include representatives of the new investors and we wish to record our thanks to the long standing outgoing chairman Mr. Howard Hamilton who has kindly consented to remain on the board. Mr. Evon Brown will also continue as group CEO and a director of NRJ and its subsidiaries.
This new venture represents a significant step towards increasing the out-put of the Jamaican and therefore Caribbean rum industry while ensuring that quality, competitiveness and the highest international standards are maintained.
This also represents a significant movement towards the consolidation of the Caribbean rum industry and totally accords with the objectives of the Caricom Single Market and Economy.
I have reproduced the press release to show what forward thinking can produce when there is vision and purpose. None of this would have been possible without the full understanding and cooperation of the Minister of Agriculture who has portfolio responsibility for national rums.
Why can't Caymanas Park and the racing interests be treated in the same manner? Is it any wonder that I keep asking for the portfolio responsibility of racing to be transferred.
There is certainly more agricultural activity in racing than financial matters. Tax can be collected in much the same manner as is done with any other business activity.
While Nero fiddles, Rome burns.
Howard L. Hamilton, C.D., J.P., is a former chairman of Caymanas Track Limited. He is the current president of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders' Association. He can be contacted at email@example.com.