Tuitt wanted national lottery

POSTED: 06/24/13 12:04 PM

Executive assistant Engel urges Minister Hassink to continue with initiative

St. Maarten – Outgoing Finance Minister Roland Tuitt was in the process of setting up a National Lottery in collaboration with Canadian Bank Note Limited (CBN) before he left office. His executive assistant Louis Engel who gives his opinion about the project on our opinion page today, sent this newspaper accidentally a press release about the initiative on June 3. It was at the time retracted at the minister’s request because the proposal still had to be discussed in the Council of Ministers. Now Engel  is pleading with Tuitt’s successor Hassink to pick up the project.

The lottery should yield $5 million a year – money Tuitt intended to use to for the Social Development Fund.

The former minister visited the Aruba Lottery on May 15 and 16 in Oranjestad. Together with his executive assistant Louis Engel and his policy advisor Xavier Blackman the minister toured the lottery-facilities and met with CBN vice president Simon Wall, whose company operates the national lottery for Aruba.

According to the retracted press release of which this newspaper has a copy Tuitt met with “various other companies interested in establishing a national lottery in St. Maarten prior to the Aruba-visit.”

But CBN “provides the government with the most favorable objectives,” the press release states.

Minister Tuitt wanted to generate $5 million a year for the Social Development Fund through the national lottery. The capital investment and operating risk remain the responsibility of “the appointed lottery operator or technical provider.”

The lottery system should meet the standards for transparency, government audit and security of the World Lottery Association.

The press release furthermore states that existing fiscal legislation for lotteries has to be amended “to achieve government revenues as realized in other jurisdictions around the world.”

The former minister also announced in the retracted press release the government’s intention “to regulate the operation of all lotteries in St. Maarten to provide sufficient consumer protection and to ensure full and proper payment of all fees and taxes due to the government of St. Maarten.”

If CBN manages St. Maarten’s national lottery, executive assistant Louis Engel noted at the time, it will provide business opportunities as citizens will be able to manage their own lottery kiosk and the non-governmental organizations will benefit from a considerable amount of funds.”

CBN and the government will discuss a possible working relationship with existing local lottery and numbers games providers.

Canadian Bank Note Limited is active in the Caribbean with national lotteries in Suriname, Aruba, Belize, Guyana, Dominica, Grenada, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent.

According to the web site of Canadian Bank Note Suriname, the company started there in 2000. In the twelve years since, the lottery had 851 jackpot winners and it paid out close to $20 million in prize money. The Canadian Bank Note Suriname Foundation, a charity comparable to St. Maarten’s social development fund, received during those years a mere $209,400 – or $17,500 on average per year, a far cry from the $5 million Minister Tuitt wants to generate through the lottery.

CBN offers the Abrazo gaming system. Abrazo is Spanish for embrace. The system allows for the introduction of new games fairly easy, because they do not require software development. The Abrazo terminals can also be used for selling airtime on mobile phones and to pay bills on government accounts and utilities.

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