Mark Wignall | Correcting a Mistake in the Local Gambling Industry | On point
It’s not often that I do such a big boo on a particular topic, especially after writing “with authority” about it for the past few months. My column last Sunday, titled “FTC Wastes Time on Supreme Ventures Blanks,” had missed the point on so many issues, and it proved to me that as a writer who memorizes so many facts, it there are times when that same memory will fail. What annoys me is that the facts were in the many notes I compiled, and in the previous articles I had written.
To my readers who are strong supporters of the local gaming industry and those with intimate knowledge of the business, I apologize. What has enlivened the issue of gaming in the latest series of such events is a draft by the Fair Trading Commission (FTC) in which it determined in its judgment that Supreme Ventures Limited (SVL) holds a dominant position in the lottery market and has exercised excessive power in trying to create profitable results in the market.
This time, we must not let our memories fail us. While part of the business horizon had sensed, not so long ago, that new players in the gaming market were emerging, it was no secret that Supreme Ventures was no agree with that. The reasons were a bit complex.
The Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Commission (BGLC), as the agency charged with regulating the gambling industry, has ignored relevant advice as to the potential effect competition could have on the lottery industry. It’s a little more complicated than putting more breaded chicken vendors on the sidewalk.
As mentioned, the Honorable Audley Shaw, as Minister of Finance, strictly prohibited the issuance of additional lottery licenses to protect government revenues. Let’s think about this. On occasion, the BGLC has complained about the higher ratings in the sector. What is the name of the entity responsible for determining and implementing the ratings? Yes, that’s right, it’s the BGLC.
And then it goes further. Which entity approved the highest ratings for Mahoe Gaming and Goodwill Gaming Enterprise, SVL’s two main competitors? Yes, it was the BGLC. Both operators stepped in with high responsibilities, and it couldn’t be that they were trying to hijack SVL’s business. This condition cannot be both accepted and contested.
The FTC draft mentions an “umbrella association of agents”. In a previous article I wrote about a year ago, I expanded on it after talking with its manager. He said to be that there were only 15 members. Surprisingly, he also admitted to trying to recruit SVL agents for Mahoe Gaming. But the case is not settled.
Now remember that it has been established that the head of the BGLC has repeatedly rejected the arguments of local and foreign lottery experts that competition with several players in the lottery industry will lead to lower revenues from the government due to higher price payments.
Of course, along with that comes increased marketing costs and legal fees. After emphatically stating that this was not a problem, the BGLC leader has now officially stated otherwise.
SVL claims not to have hindered competition. Sources tell me that SVL can come in anywhere and do business with whoever they want. With the stop of an agent, it is SVL which is disturbed; not those who have moved on. Additionally, there are over 1,200 agents with SVL, and less than 50 have been terminated for various reasons. Comically, it is mentioned that four dismissed agents have filed a complaint.
We must remember that SVL was at no time shy about its position on several lotteries. For those who thought that SVL, and, for that matter, Mahoe and Goodwill, wouldn’t engage in business models that might make it easier to survive, relax and face reality. But this mode would also go for SVL.
Sources tell me that “the FTC report makes a big deal out of four fired officers. There is no way for the four dismissed agents who complained to have legal recourse against SVL, because all the contracts [arrangements] were honored and at no time did SVL infringe any of their rights under the contract”.
Last week I spoke to some people at street level. I was trying to get inside their heads. Were they talking about the ruling Jamaican Labor Party? No. Were they talking about the opposition, the People’s National Party. Certainly not. So what? Was it a crime? Damn, yes. Was it minimum wage? Yes and yes.
What about the war between Russia and Ukraine? What war? Right now, it doesn’t seem important to a large percentage of Jamaicans that Europe might erupt in a terrible shooting war. Let’s not even consider that the conflict has a pretty scary element, that is, it has the potential to escalate into an all-consuming global conflict.
It is therefore necessary to know that over the weeks and months, this conflict will be found more in our lives.