Thu | May 6, 2021

Mark Wignall | Gaming competition or war

Published:Sunday | February 21, 2021 | 12:09 AM

Last year was a most disgusting time and place to be. A global disease was ravaging the people in every corner, and very few us us knew the best way to escape its clutches. By the end of 2020 as we knew more but at the same time were still firmly locked into new uncertainties, one major factor was always looming.

How do we claw our way back to a normal economy? Will there be space for accommodating the thousands of jobs lost? And then just as those factors occupied our thoughts, COVID-19 stepped on the accelerator, and as if the stress levels were not yet at breaking point, the virus spun around and morphed into variants. How would that affect the vaccine regimen?

Politicians, globally, knew that if they could not properly thread the needle through keeping their people at the lowest possible exposure and creating an economic landscape that could keep starvation at bay, election losses were imminent.

At the very time that it was announced that Mahoe Gaming (MG) would be granted a licence to, in essence, go up against Supreme Ventures, there were many who saw this move as a big positive for the economy. Based on research papers I saw, I argued that it was not as simple as what normal arithmetic and Econ 101 would indicate. It was much more nuanced than that.

For example, if it could be shown that Supreme Ventures (SV) positively impacted the economic lives of say, 5,000 families, would it mean that placing another competitor (MG) on equal standing with SV would automatically mean that 10,000 families would be positively impacted?

Let me go off on a tangent of sorts. But still in gaming. Recently, in New Jersey, we saw the controlled implosion of a casino/hotel complex once owned/operated by Donald Trump. It has been documented that one of the main reasons for the abysmal failure of Trump’s forays into casinos was that he built them in too close proximity to each other.

Or he gave each of them too big a name to the point that they began to compete with each other while his rivals, spread out over many cities, pretty much cleaned up by making literally truck loads of money. Trump was more interested in seeing his name in lights than sticking to the crazy but real economic laws of gaming.

BLESSING FOR THE GOVERNMENT

As I have stated before, gambling is not something that any government steeped in a parliamentary democracy would be proud to hold up and cite as a key success of its administration. First, it has to do a name-change. So gambling moves to gaming.

To make its ethical case that it hates the very thing that it knows it cannot avoid, knowing that gaming is highly lucrative, a company like Supreme Ventures is highly taxed, and those proceeds are used to fund what are seen as good works in the society such as education and sports for the underserved and other opportunities that the Government can hold up and say it has done well with the sin it has given to the people to indulge their fantasies.

With the new entrant on the block, the gaming space has been experiencing some jitters. A fledgling organisation called Associated Gaming Retailers has, in some quarters, announced its presence. It is headed by Wayne Chong Sang, and according to him, of the 1,200 gaming retailers islandwide, he has 15 signed on to his association. A mere 15.

QUESTIONING ASSOCIATED GAMING RETAILERS

When Chong Sang and I spoke last Thursday evening, I told him that I heard he was on a recruitment drive. “With what purpose in mind?” I asked him.

“Basically, to represent their interests. But some have said that I am coming to introduce a union to the business of gaming, something that is so far-fetched it’s not funny.”

“Do you have any attachments to Mahoe Gaming?” I asked. “And have you been recruiting on their behalf, that is, getting retailers to switch from Supreme to Mahoe?”

“Wel,l I am the uncle of Mahoe Gaming’s director and company secretary, but Jamaica is a small country, so I can well understand why people may ascribe a connection that I may not be able to defend.”

“It is my understanding that loyalty is a two-way street. If Supreme Ventures determined that a retailer was actively trying to undermine its activities, and it activated the 30-day mutual agreement clause for termination, would the company be in breach of contract?” He answered with a simple no.

One retailer who called me last Tuesday told me that he decided to sign up with Mahoe Gaming after being approached by the new association. After that, Supreme Ventures allegedly invoked the 30-day termination. “I made a mistake. I have been with Supreme from the beginning. And now this. I acted foolishly.”

An industry source pointed out to me that Supreme Ventures, in expecting the roll-out of Mahoe Gaming, has reportedly increased the odds across many of their games, and since that, there has been significant demand for their terminals. So on one hand, there is the attraction to the new guy on the block, and on the other, there is the old reliable, knowing the ropes and who has been through it in thin times and through the thick of things.

I would advise Mr Chong Sang to declare his full family credentials to those retailers he has been reaching out to so that each party can be aware of where they stand. At this stage, I cannot see how he will avoid some retailers finding out the true position by way of this column.

The best outcome for all of this is a sustainable period of gainful employment for those who need it the most. And at the same time, the Government will be expecting a fistful of dollars from the guaranteed tax regime that it expects from the gambling, er, gaming industry.

- Mark Wignall is a political and public-affairs analyst. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and mawigsr@gmail.com.