Minister Irion mentions a new yearly fee for lotteries

Minister Irion mentions a  new yearly fee for lotteries

PHILIPSBURG--Minister of Finance Ardwell Irion is consulting with the Ministry of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunication (TEATT) on a regulatory framework with a new fee for lotteries on the island, he said on Thursday in response to questions from Member of Parliament (MP) Sarah Wescot-Williams.

  Irion first announced on October 20, 2021, that he would “make sure that lottery businesses are compliant.” He said this during the weekly Council of Ministers press briefing after Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs had stated that the sharp increase of lottery booths and slot machines had government’s attention. The ministers addressed the issue in response to a request from MPs to ensure that lottery booths are adequately regulated.

  Irion told Parliament on Thursday that he would try to get an update from the TEATT Ministry on the topic of a proposed “lottery committee”.

  “Lotteries have been a concern of mine since I became minister of finance,” Irion said. “Not just seeing them all over the island, but also the question of the legal basis. The Ministry of TEATT has begun drafting or is in the final stage of legislation, I believe, to basically have every lottery booth pay 12,500 [Netherlands – Ed.] Antillean guilders a year for their location, which should generate half a million guilders a year [for government’s coffers].”

  Based on the Lottery Ordinance of 2015, lotteries already have a legal obligation to pay monthly fees. Licence fees to Government from lotteries are based on a fixed-fee scheme and are not determined by the revenue generated by a lottery nor on a portion of pay-outs to winners. The fixed fee for lottery licences is a monthly fee of NAf. 30,000 for lottery, NAf. 20,000 for sweepstakes, NAf. 12,500 for number game and NAf. 12,500 for scratch tickets.

  Based on information provided by the TEATT Ministry to the General Audit Chamber, the total annual fees should be NAf. 2.9 million annually. It is not clear from Irion’s answers to Parliament whether he is making sure this sum is collected by government, and if not, why then a new annual fee would be introduced. The Daily Herald has called Irion for clarification, but he could not be reached for comment.

  The General Audit Chamber performed a mini-audit on responsible gambling in September 2021. In its report, the chamber stated that based on the National Ordinance on Games of Chance the yearly revenue from licence fees of 13 operational full-fledged casinos on St. Maarten should amount to NAf. 7.8 million, with and additional NAf. 2.9 million from lotteries. However, in 2020, Government budgeted income from casino and lottery fees combined at NAf. 6.2 million instead of NAf. 10.7 million.

  Realised government revenue from lotteries and casinos in 2017 through 2020 is below the maximum potential revenue, the General Audit Chamber noted. “Given that the Minister of TEATT is responsible for issuing casino and lottery licences, the Minister is, in accordance with the relevant legislation also authorised to suspend fees, although the Minister uses the word ‘waiver’ in all relevant decisions.”

  In the Chamber’s audit report on the financial statement 2018 of country St. Maarten, it is noted that “The legislation states that suspension of payment is possible under certain circumstances. Furthermore, the Minister can determine that collection orders can be withdrawn.

  “In our opinion, this does not unequivocally mean that the payment obligation ceases to exist. After all, suspension means postponement, not a cancellation. The logical consequence of a suspension is that the associating collection order is withdrawn. It is not clear to us what the Minister means by ‘waiver’ in the relevant decrees.”

  Whether there are currently waivers from the TEATT Ministry in place for casinos and lotteries on the island has not been made public.

The Daily Herald

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