KSAC appeals to PM - Council seeks intervention
Published: Sunday | October 18, 2009
Tyrone Reid, Sunday Gleaner Reporter
Smothered by increased fiscal demands and loss of revenue, the Kingston and St Andrew Corporation (KSAC) is turning to gambling as a source of funding. It is eyeing a city lottery which it hopes will generate enough money for itself and other parish councils to fix roads and undertake the other functions for which they are responsible.
But the KSAC is encountering difficulties. It is worried that the approximately $10 million already expended by its financial backers on the proposed city lottery could go down the drain. KSAC is still waiting for the licence it had applied to the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Commission (BGLC) for almost a year ago to run the national lottery. It is now seeking the intervention of Prime Minister Bruce Golding.
A release issued by the KSAC on Friday revealed that it applied for the licence from the BGLC on November 11, 2008. But a decision is still pending. "Since then, we have had several meetings with experts in the field, we have travelled overseas to look at similar lotteries and we have actively pursued this matter over the period at a cost of some $8-$10 million," said Lee Clarke, deputy mayor of Kingston during the council's monthly meeting at its Church Street offices in downtown Kingston.
"We are concerned that nearly one year later, we are still awaiting a decision from the BGLC. The last correspondence we have from the commission is that they wrote the Attorney General's Department, in June, seeking clarification and are still awaiting a response," Clarke added.
He revealed that the sticking point is the legality of the council's involvement with a lottery. Clarke told The Sunday Gleaner that the lion's share of the expenditure thus far has gone into legal fees as lawyers representing the KSAC, as well as the legal team representing the financiers, have been meeting with the BGLC to iron out the issues. "It was no cost to the KSAC. All of this is borne by the private sector (partners)," he said.
Clarke explained that the proposed city lottery would be financed by the financiers - a group of four private-sector individuals - but the Council would be the face of the gambling project. He pointed out that the financiers would make "good money" out of the proposed City Lotto but the parish councils, not just the KSAC, would get 8 1/2 per cent of the revenue from the initiative to fund their functions which include but is not limited to repairing parochial roads. Lee revealed that estimates suggest that the councils could walk away with more than $1 billion in the first year.
Dire financial straits
Clarke argued that increased fiscal demands compounded by loss of revenue has placed parish councils in dire financial straits. "With the councils now required to fund 80 per cent of their budgets and the concurrent loss of revenues from building applications and road funding, the KSAC wants to introduce the lottery, at the national level, to meet some of the funding for its budget, as well as the budgets of other councils."
Still making the council's case, Clarke noted that the city lottery is projected to provide 2,100 direct jobs and 5,000 indirect jobs.
Clarke said if the BGLC fails to approve the joint venture, the parish councils would have lost an income earner because their private partners are prepared to go it alone. He added that the Council's involvement is not novel as similar arrangements exist around the world.