Trinidad and Tobago seems to be unwilling to cut back the proposed increase of the tax rates, which are to be imposed on the gambling industry. In an interview after a post-budget conference, Planning Minister Camille Robinson-Regis stated that the tax measures are adequate and the government will not change its stance on the matter. She added that it is inappropriate to discuss the tax rates with the operators as they will most probably seek exemption from taxes.
On 2nd October it emerged on the surface that Trinidad and Tobago’s government plans to double the tax levels imposed on the gambling industry. The tax increase was proposed by Trinidad and Tobago’s Finance Minister Colm Imbert as part of his budget plan for 2017-18 fiscal year. The news ruffled the feathers of the land-based casino operators, explaining that the new tax levels are unbearable and are to destroy the gambling trade across the country.
The changes in the taxation system resulted in a wave of discontent and even protests in front of the Parliament. Six small casinos even took the decision to suspend operations, being unable to pay such high taxes. T&T Members Club Association (TTMCA) even announced that it will challenge the government’s decision in the court as the officials did not discuss the tax increase with the union.
Apart from the casino operators, the casino workers and locals also expressed their discontent as this will increase the unemployment rate across the country and many people will lose their much-needed jobs. This will have a negative effect on the country’s economy, as it will lose its current stable income from the operators. The situation can be best described as quitting a certainty for a hope as the Trinidad and Tobago’s officials hope to boost the country’s lackluster economy, throwing away their stable income.
Last week, Members’ Clubs and Lottery Workers (UMCLW) vice president Sean Clarke reported that there are 9,000 people, who are directly hired and over 30,000 people, who are indirectly involved in the casino industry. Supposing that the new tax system comes into effect, as expected from January 2018, many land-based operators will be forced to either suspend operations or to cut the number of their workers in an attempt to reduce business costs. In response to that, Robinson-Regis said that this is not the first time, in which operators threaten the government with job losses, but this will never happen. She reminded that when the Gaming and Gambling legislation entered the Parliament, the situation was pretty much the same, but the operators did not take any actions after all.
Tobago’s Gambling Industry in the Future
If there are multiple factors, that determine the successfulness and profitability of the gambling market, taxations system is the most important of all. It is not a secret that most of the casino operators, both land-based and offshore, tend to avoid jurisdictions with heavy tax rates. This is not the first time, in which a country with a regulated gambling market is increasing the gambling taxes, in an attempt to reap more money from the operators. In most of the cases, this usually triggers a massive discontent and may even lead to a closure of casinos. Logically, less operating casinos means less taxes to enter the country’s coffers. At present, the future of Trinidad and Tobago’s gambling industry remains blurred.