Sun | Mar 24, 2019

Editors' Forum | Churches gaining from gambling

Published:Monday | December 17, 2018 | 12:00 AMChristopher Serju/ Gleaner Writer

Churches are among the main beneficiaries of the proceeds of gambling revenue collected by the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Commission (BGLC) to which they apply for sponsorship support and other ventures.

It came to light last Thursday that despite their public outcry against horse racing, gaming and other forms of gambling, churches seem to have no problem using the proceeds from these operations to fund religious activities.

"Churches come to us for sponsorship and donations regularly," Jeanette Lewis, manager for corporate affairs and communication, told a Gleaner Editors' Forum. Vitus Evans, executive director of the BGLC, also said that some religious bodies are getting directly involved in one particular type of gaming.

 

CHANGE OF ATTITUDE

 

He told the forum: "Quite a few churches have applied for their bingo licences. I'm not sure if there is a change of attitude or it is that their demand for support has increased ... ."

The BGLC, which regulates gaming in Jamaica, is self-funded from the various levies and fees it charges casino operators, as well as bar owners/operators who pay annual sums to operate gaming machines, including the popular Poker boxes.

Last year, it raked in a total of J$7 billion. However, the BGLC does not keep all the money earned. Some goes to Tax Administration Jamaica, with most of the earnings going to the Consolidated Fund and is redirected to the CHASE Fund. It is the funding reserved for corporate donations that the churches have targeted, but they are not alone in this, Lewis admitted.

She explained: "We get constant requests from organisations of all types and many religious organisations and churches do write in and request our contributions for their various types of projects. And we don't turn them down and say we are not doing it, (because) you are a church. We still actually have approved some of the requests."

Ironically, the Church has been steadfast in its opposition to Sunday racing. The Jamaica Racing Commission has been promoting the event on it calendar, given its popularity and potential for income generation.

christopher.serju@gleanerjm.com