Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Finance and Planning, Hon. Horace Dalley, says that while the Government is fully committed to the divestment of Caymanas Park, it is not prepared to “give it away."
Addressing stakeholders at a Horse racing Summit at the Jamaica Conference Centre in Kingston on August 23, Mr. Dalley said that “the most challenging and immediate issue facing the racing industry is what to do with Caymanas Track Limited and how it should be done."
“Anybody who is ‘bruck’, don’t come to the Government about wanting to take over the race track. It is as clear as that. It is not going to be anything where we are going to ‘hug up’ your investment or your business for another 10 to 15 years. There is no grace (period), or incentives or concession. Come with your money, take the business, and run it. We have no interest in keeping Caymanas Park,” Minister Dalley declared.
The Minister said the government does not intend to be a part of the future ownership of the race track. He emphasised, however, that before divestment, “we must be aware and must be assured, that investors, local or foreign, who come to the table to take ownership of Caymanas Park, must have the capacity to either improve the racing plant substantially and at the same time they must demonstrate their ability to operate such a facility on a sustained basis. We intend to retreat to our rightful place as being regulators and not owners,” he emphasised.
Noting that the development and expansion of Portmore has brought several unforeseen challenges to the present operation of the track, Minister Dalley said that, “with all the difficulties, the Government has no intention to bulldoze Caymanas Park."
“We will give full support to any investor or businesses which have interest in establishing another track. And, we will treat you at the Ministry of Finance and Planning and the government the same way as we treat any investor who comes to our shores,” Mr. Dalley said.
Also speaking at the event, Chairman of Caymanas Track Limited (CTL), Joseph A. Matalon, said that the track currently “is not an attractive entity for divestment."
Mr. Matalon said the newly appointed Board is in the process of reviewing the current status of CTL and is finding that corporate governance is way below the levels that would be expected from an entity that has revenue of $4.5 billion.
Noting that CTL lost $146.5 million last financial year (April 2011-March 2012), Mr. Matalon said: “We are looking at ways to stem the haemorrhaging before we go to market with this divestment through the Development Bank of Jamaica (DBJ) and in keeping with the rules of the Contractor General."
The Chairman pointed out that discussions have begun, and the Development Bank of Jamaica and the Ministry of Finance are independently seeking ways to strengthen the regulatory authority and the gambling associated with it, in preparation for divestment.
Stakeholders within the horseracing industry have hailed the ‘Horse Racing Summit’, calling it long overdue. The summit brought together representatives from the various sectors within the industry under one roof to voice their concerns and listen to each other. It was organised by the Ministry of Finance and Planning, in association with the Betting Gaming and Lotteries Commission.