Op­po­si­tion de­mands time to de­bate ex­clu­sive horse rac­ing bills

Jamaica Gleaner - - NEWS -

PAS­SAGE OF two bills that will al­low for the grant­ing of geo­graphic ex­clu­siv­ity in re­spect of a li­cence to Supreme Ven­tures, the pre­ferred bid­der in the di­vest­ment of Cay­manas Track Lim­ited, was de­layed on Wed­nes­day af­ter some mem­bers of the par­lia­men­tary Op­po­si­tion asked for time to re­view the leg­is­la­tion be­fore mak­ing their con­tri­bu­tion to the de­bate.

Fi­nance and the Pub­lic Ser­vice Min­is­ter Aud­ley Shaw, who pi­loted the bill, told his par­lia­men­tary col­leagues that the pas­sage of the bills was im­per­a­tive in or­der to close the di­vest­ment process with Supreme Ven­tures Lim­ited.

He said the bills, an Act to Amend the Bet­ting, Gam­ing and Lot­ter­ies Act and an Act to Amend the Ja­maica Rac­ing Com­mis­sion Act, would fa­cil­i­tate the estab­lish­ment of a reg­u­la­tory frame­work that at­tracts and sup­ports in­vest­ment in the horse rac­ing in­dus­try and pave the way for the devel­op­ment of Cay­manas Track into a mod­ern world-class rac­ing com­plex.

Among the terms of the di­vest­ment trans­ac­tion is the long-term lease of 30 years of Cay­manas Park.

Shaw said the Govern­ment also gave ap­proval for all-is­land ex­clu­siv­ity in re­spect of horse rac­ing to be granted to the pre­ferred bid­der for a pe­riod of 15 years.

Leader of Govern­ment Busi­ness in the House Phillip Paulwell asked his coun­ter­part, Der­rick Smith, to de­lay the pas­sage of the bill, say­ing that some mem­bers on the op­po­si­tion benches wanted to par­tic­i­pate in the de­bate but only re­ceived a copy of the leg­is­la­tion on Wed­nes­day.

In a sotto voce com­ment, Lisa Hanna, mem­ber of par­lia­ment for St Ann South East, raised con­cerns about the ar­range­ment whereby the leg­is­la­tion grants a monopoly to the pre­ferred bid­der.

How­ever, Shaw ar­gued that if the monopoly were not granted, the di­vest­ment would not take place.

“You are con­flicted,” Shaw shot back at Hanna, sotto voce.

SCHED­ULED SIGN­ING

He later re­vealed that a sign­ing be­tween the Govern­ment and Supreme Ven­tures is sched­uled for Novem­ber 18. Ac­cord­ing to Shaw, the pas­sage of the bill would clear the way for re­dun­dancy pay­ments to the work­ers of Cay­manas Park prior to Christ­mas and the for­mal takeover of the en­tity by Jan­uary 5, 2017. “If the sign­ing is go­ing to be de­layed, then the re­dun­dancy pay­ment to the work­ers will also be set back,” he added.

Der­rick Smith, leader of govern­ment busi­ness, who de­clared in­ter­est in the horse rac­ing in­dus­try as an owner and breeder, said he was dis­ap­pointed that the process was be­ing de­layed at this stage.

“If the Op­po­si­tion is strong on not speak­ing this af­ter­noon (Wed­nes­day) or not want­ing the is­sue to be closed this af­ter­noon, so be it, but I want to ad­vise that they are fly­ing in the face of rac­ing in­ter­ests – all peo­ple in rac­ing who are anx­ious for the new en­tity to take over the in­dus­try,” he said.

He urged the Op­po­si­tion to re­con­sider its po­si­tion. “In other words, to over­ride self-in­ter­est.”

Paulwell called for his coun­ter­part to with­draw the com­ment, not­ing that he was im­put­ing mo­tive to mem­bers of the Op­po­si­tion.

Peter Phillips, for­mer fi­nance min­is­ter who ini­ti­ated the di­vest­ment when he was the port­fo­lio min­is­ter, sup­ported the grant­ing of an ex­clu­sive li­cence, say­ing, “Busi­ness oper­a­tions re­quire that peo­ple are not go­ing to put pri­vate money into a loss-mak­ing ven­ture.”

How­ever, he said that “in time, Ja­maica can sup­port three or more rac­ing oper­a­tions”.

The for­mer fi­nance min­is­ter said that mem­bers who want to par­tic­i­pate in the de­bate should be al­lowed to do so at a sub­se­quent sit­ting.

The House sus­pended de­bate on the leg­is­la­tion.

SHAW

PAULWEL

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