It is not often that I make such a big boo-boo on a particular subject, especially after I had written ‘with authority’ about it in previous months. Last Sunday my column, titled ‘FTC wasting time firing blanks at Supreme Ventures’, had missed the point on so many issues, and it proved to me that as a writer who commits so many facts to memory, there are times when that very memory will fail. What irks me is that the facts were to be found in the many notes that I compiled, and in the previous articles I had written.
To my readers who are ardent supporters of the local gaming industry and those with intimate knowledge of the business, I apologise. What got the gaming matter animated in the last series of such events was a draft from the Fair Trading Commission (FTC) in which it has determined, in its judgement, that Supreme Ventures Limited (SVL) holds a dominant position in the lottery market and has applied undue power in trying to create profitable outcomes in the market.
This time around we must not allow our memories to fail us. While one part of the business horizon had sensed, not so long ago, that new players in the gaming market were emerging, it was not a secret that Supreme Ventures was not on board with that. The reasons were a bit complex.
The Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Commission (BGLC), as the agency tasked with regulating the gaming industry, disregarded pertinent advice as to the potential effect that competition could have on the lottery sector. It’s a little more complicated than putting more pan chicken vendors on the sidewalk.
As has been stated,the Hon Audley Shaw, as finance minister, strictly prohibited the issuing of additional lottery licences to protect government revenues. Let us think about this. It has come about that the BGLC has complained about higher odds in the sector. What is the name of the entity whose duty it is to determine, and set into operation, odds? Yes, that’s rights, it’s the BGLC.
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And then it goes further. Which was the entity that approved higher odds for both Mahoe Gaming and Goodwill Gaming Enterprise, the two main competitors of SVL? Yes, it was the BGLC. Both operators launched with high prize liabilities, and that could make only be that they were trying to divert business from SVL. This condition cannot both be accepted and complained about.
The FTC draft mentions an “umbrella association of agents”. In a previous article I had written about a year ago, I developed it after speaking with its head. He told be that there were only 15 members. Shockingly, he also admitted to attempting to recruit SVL agents for Mahoe Gaming. But the matter is not done.
Remember now, it has been established that the head of the BGLC has, on multiple occasions, rejected arguments from both local and foreign lottery experts that competition with multiple players in the lottery sector will result in lower government revenues because of higher prize payouts.
Of course, right alongside that are increased marketing costs and legal fees. Having categorically stated that this was not a concern, the head of the BGLC is now on record stating the exact opposite.
SVL says it has not hindered competition. Sources tell me that SVL can enter any location and do business with whomever they choose. With the termination of an agent, it is SVL that is disrupted; not those who have moved on. Additionally, there are over 1,200 agents with SVL, and less than 50 have been terminated for various reasons. Comedically, it is mentioned that four terminated agents have made complaints.
We must remember that SVL was at no stage shy about its position on multiple lotteries. For those who thought that SVL, and, for that matter, Mahoe and Goodwill, would not engage in business models that could facilitate their survival, relax and face reality. But that mode would also go for SVL.
Sources have passed on to me that “the FTC report makes a big thing about four terminated agents. There is no way the four terminated agents that complained have any legal recourse against SVL, as all contractual [arrangements] were honoured, and at no time did SVL abridge any of their rights in regard to the contract”.
Last last week, I spoke to some people at street level. I was trying to get inside their heads. Were they speaking of the governing Jamaica Labour Party? No. Were they speaking of the opposition People’s National Party. Very definitely not. So, what? Was it about crime? Hell, yes. Was it about minimum wage? Yes, and yes.
What about the war between Russia and Ukraine? Which war? At this time, it doesn’t seem to matter to a large percentage of Jamaicans that Europe may erupt into a terrible shooting war. Let us not even consider that the conflict has an element that is quite scary and that is, it has the potential to grow into an all-consuming, global conflict.
One, therefore, should know that as the weeks and months push on, this conflict will find itself more into our lives.