What’s Hanna’s beef with the horse race?
I came across an interesting story in the papers this week. It was a story from earlier in the month, wherein Lisa Hanna questioned Minister of Finance Nigel Clarke about why the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Commission was sponsoring the Diamond Mile at Caymanas Park.
She questioned why would the government be spending $70 million on a race and was upping that amount to $80 million this year.
Dr Clarke did not have an answer and apparently said he would look into it, but here is my question. Why is Hanna questioning something that has been going on for years and which has helped the industry?
Sponsoring the Diamond Mile helps everyone, and yes, Caymanas Park is a private enterprise now, but public-private partnerships still make sense for an industry that has been so neglected by government for so long, you could argue that this money has been long overdue.
Better yet, the government stands to earn from its investment in the Diamond Mile.
For one, the more attractive the purse, the more likely owners can get better returns on their investment, because everyone knows interest in ownership has been waning for some time; things like these will only help to reverse what has been a worrying trend.
Also, the government earns taxes from the income derived from these races, and the more money that is invested in a race such as the Diamond Mile, the more interest it gets from bettors, whose winnings generate tax revenue for the government.
Better yet, with Supreme Ventures Entertainment and Racing looking to get foreign-based horses to race in the Diamond Mile, anything that helps to sweeten the pot will only raise interest from owners in Barbados, Trinidad and the US east coast - once they pass the necessary safety regulations and the costs for shipping horses into Jamaica are driven down.
Owners taking their horses here means sports-related revenue for the government. Those owners, while here, will be spending money for all sorts of things, from food to entertainment to care for their horses.
I do not see why this was even an issue for Hanna. You have to wonder whether this is a matter of sour grapes if we are to be guided by her statement that "I actually have no personal interest..."
Jamaica's racing industry, whether privately or publicly owned, provides many jobs for Jamaicans, so any investment in it can only help it to grow and to return to its former glory.
If achieved, it means profits and jobs, which benefit the government, the owners, punters, trainers, grooms, and jockeys.
I do not see why anyone would have a problem with that.