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Gov’t quizzed on continued support for horse racing

Published:Tuesday | March 5, 2019 | 12:00 AM

Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke is to update Parliament on the extent of Government’s continued involvement in the local horse racing industry after a multimillion-dollar sponsorship arrangement triggered concern.

Eyebrows were raised at yesterday’s meeting of Parliament’s Standing Finance Committee when it was noted that $80 million was set aside for sponsorship of Jamaica’s richest horse race, The Diamond Mile.

The Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Commission (BGLC) is the body charged with regulating the gaming industry, including gaming lounges, slot machines and lotteries in Jamaica, while the horse racing industry is regulated by the Jamaica Racing Commission (JRC). Both entities are run through subventions from Government and fees collected from their regulatory functions.

Opposition member Lisa Hanna sought answers, labelling the line item under provisions for the BGLC “curious expenditure”.

“Why are we spending $70 million over the financial year in an entity which has been divested?” Hanna asked in reference to the similar amounts spent over the last two years on The Diamond Mile.

“I think we’ll have to refer to the divestment agreement to get an understanding there,” the finance minister said.

Clarke said he would have to ascertain the true picture and report back to Parliament.

Hanna contended that she found it odd that Government was proposing to spend a large sum of money on one race (The Diamond Mile) when the entity in charge of horse racing was a private one. Government has divested its interest in Caymanas Park since early 2017, handing over operations of horse racing to Supreme Ventures and Entertainment Limited.