Opinion: Casino fees

POSTED: 01/22/13 12:44 PM

We read with some amazement how the United People’s party is suddenly concerned about job losses in the casino industry. This is based on a proposal by Finance Minister Tuitt to increase casino fees and to collect 7 million guilders in revenue that way.

First of all, we do not see how these issues could be related. If the casinos have to pay higher fees, they will find a way in a heartbeat to collect that money from their players. No skin off their noses. They could simply rig their slot machines a bit more to their own advantage and nobody would even notice the difference.

But the casino operators, for some reason, have already objected to paying higher fees. They don’t agree with it.

So what? Who is setting the rules in this country? The government or the casino bosses? The UP faction seems to think that the casino fees can only be increased if the casino bosses agree with it. That is obviously utter nonsense.

The truth is that the finance minister is only able to increase these fees if the parliament gives such a measure the nod of approval. The budget debate is the place to fight these battles.

Whether the government has thought about the possible consequences of higher fees is another matter. So far, to mention just one example, we have not heard a word from Members of Parliament about Justice Minister Roland Duncan’s idea to charged hundreds of guilders for residence permits to finance his Justice Park.

One may well wonder why the UP balks at the idea of finally making the gaming industry pay its fair share, while it happily ignores the assault on employees that depend on a residence permit. What will the consequences of that measure be?

Maybe the UP feels a stronger connection with casino bosses than with working class people. It is a public secret that the party’s election campaign was at least in part financed by sources from the casino industry. There is nothing wrong with that – as long as there is no legislation that regulates campaign financing.

We suspect that such legislation will never see the light of day, because the happy few are comfortable with the status quo. But when their friends in the casino industry finally have to pony up, we see a not too subtle counter move whereby a rather hypocritical concern for the job security of casino-employees is used as a lame excuse to attack a long overdue measure that targets the fat profits of the casinos.

If the United People’s party feels the need to protect its friends in the casino industry it ought to be open about it. There is nothing wrong with standing up for your friends, but at least be honest about it.

Instead of faking worries about job security the UP ought to come up with constructive ideas to keep the country on the right track. If higher casino-fees are indeed part of the 2013 budget, the party is free to vote against it. But if it gets a majority in parliament to ditch the measure, it will have to offer an alternative.

Amendments to a budget have to be budget-neutral. If the UP wants to scrap 7 million in revenue, it will have to indicate via which other means it wants to collect that money or – option two – where it wants to cut expenditures to arrive at the same result.

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