By Horace Mills, BVI News Online Staff
While announcing that a potential investor wants to pump over $20 million into the Ellis Thomas Downs in Sea Cows Bay, minister responsible for sports Myron Walwyn has called for a referendum on parimutuel betting and a national lottery.
He made the call today (March 1) while noting that Government could generate much-needed revenue from the said activities.
Walwyn further indicated that residents are already heavily taxed, and so new revenue sources are important.
He said: “A group came to see me about the Ellis Thomas Downs and being able to take out the Ellis Thomas Downs and do certain things in that area, offering $20-something million to upgrade the facility, and be able to have their casinos and so on in there so they can get their return on their investment. We might have to look at these things,” Walwyn said.
He noted that Government ‘might not want to make that decision’ about legalizing parimutuel betting.
But the minister reiterated that the government, at the very least, can facilitate a discussion on the matter.
“This whole issue of gaming is something that we probably should put through a referendum to hear what the views are of the public on it. We can’t just sit down and do nothing about it. It’s a budding industry that requires our attention or at least a discussion about it,” Walwyn further said.
Losing to Puerto Rico, USVI
He noted that people in the territory are already purchasing national lotteries from other countries, resulting in the BVI losing potential revenue.
“The whole issue of a national lottery; again things that have been around for so long that we need to pay attention to. A lot of people in this country supporting Puerto Rican lottery and US Virgin Islands (USVI) lottery. Our money going out to them while we can do the very same thing. We have to make a decision about what we are going to do, and how we are going to address it.”
“You can set up a national lottery and the money goes towards health and education in areas that are needed,” Walwyn further told the House of Assembly during his contribution to the 2017 Budget Debate.
Some may be offensive, but…
Walwyn, in the meantime, noted that some of the proposals he has made may be considered offensive to some segments of the society.
“The way government raises money is through taxation, and you have a small population here in this country, and you can’t tax people to death because it will end up having the negative effect.”
“So there are some things that we have to do and talk about as a country, and maybe we will have to put some of those things through a referendum to hear what people think about them,” the minister continued.
“We have to start to think about different ways to raise money. Some of them may be offensive depending on your persuasion – whether you are a Christian or not or what your views might be. But at least some of the things we have to take a look at them because – in a small country like ours – the more ways we have to make money, the more sustainable life is for the people in the country,” added Walwyn.
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