Minister agrees to meet Trinidad and Tobago’s casino operators amid 100% casino tax row

  • Budget puts harsh taxes on gambling profits and wins
  • Finance Ministry faced criticism for not meeting casino owners

The Finance Minister for Trinidad and Tobago, Colm Imbert, has agreed to a public meeting with the stakeholders and owners of the nation’s casino businesses.

The Honourable Colm Imbert, MP, is meeting casino operators in Trinidad and Tobago
The Honourable Colm Imbert, MP, is meeting casino operators in Trinidad and Tobago

The Newsday publication reports that Mr Imbert agreed to the meeting after facing strong criticism from the industry for ignoring their concerns over taxation.

A recent budget update imposes extremely harsh taxes of up to 100% on gambling profits, which gaming industry advocates have called a “catastrophic and horrific” move.

Casino operators had met with aides from the Finance Ministry to share their fears and make recommendations, but expressed disappointment at the outcome and requested they speak with the Finance Minister himself.

Imbert has granted that request, provisionally at least, with a promise to meet key shareholders and casino owners “at a date and time to be determined.”

Budget penalizes gambling sector – and players

Trinidad and Tobago is in the midst of an economic crisis and the Government is looking to make cutbacks and seize additional streams of revenue wherever it can.

Its budget for the 2017-2018 fiscal year has therefore imposed some fairly hefty taxes on industries within the Caribbean nation, and especially on the gambling sector.

Under the new rules, slots operators will be subject to a 100% tax rate on their profits, while fees per gaming table are set to double.

Electronic machine import tariffs will rise to 40%, and slot machines in bars will be subject to far higher taxes as well. Even players will feel the pinch, with a personal tax imposed on lottery and gambling winnings.

The lottery tax is particularly harsh, totalling 10% of any win.

Trade association defends gaming industry

The Trinidad and Tobago Members Club Association, which represents the interests of gambling and entertainment operators, has expressed its concerns about the new tax rate which they say penalizes compliant casino companies, rather than tackling illegal gaming and tax-dodging.

Earlier this month, the group held an emergency meeting to address the new budget, before taking their recommendations and opinions to the Finance Ministry.

This meeting was reportedly not a success. “I felt as if we were going through the motions; we weren’t given any hope,” said TTMCA president Sherry Persad. During the meeting, industry stakeholders asked ministry aide Allyson West to report their concerns back to Imbert.

However, the group says they do not feel their views were taken seriously and they have requested a meeting with Imbert directly.

In response, the Corporate Communications Unit of the Ministry of Finance has asked all relevant parties interested in attending a public discussion with the Finance Minister to contact the agency with their details.

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