Since the Prime Minister and the Minister of State (Investment, Trade and Commerce) in the Ministry of Economic Development, Petroleum, Investment, Trade, and Commerce have said that the decision to give Brad’s Gaming Company the contract to run the Boledo for the next ten years was made by the Lotteries Tender Committee without the interference of anyone in government, it would be good if the persons on that committee explained the decision to the nation.
All of us in this world are subject to scrutiny. The person who cleans the drain has a supervisor who is charged to make sure that the job is done right. If the drain isn’t properly cleaned, the person cleaning the drain and/or the person charged with seeing that the job is done right, have to be moved to other jobs, for clearly they are woefully misplaced in the sanitation department.
Until the Lotteries Tender Committee shows up to take the blame for this extremely disappointing decision, we will continue as though the PM and his Minister of State — are not telling the truth.
Information to the Amandala is that two entities besides Brad’s Gaming Company applied for the Boledo contract, one of the other two being the National Olympic Committee. Our leaders need only have looked to Barbados to make an enlightened decision. The article, “BOA COVID-19 Response and Athlete Developments”, which can be found at https://olympic.org.bb, explains how they do it in a progressive sister Caribbean nation.
Two sources of funding for the BOA (Barbados Olympic Association) are from the Barbados Lottery, and a “Gaming fund set up by Govt., which is a share of taxes collected from the slot and the VLT machines.” The BOA uses these funds to help athletes in Barbados develop their talents; it also has a special sports insurance policy that, for $50 annually, gives their athletes $50,000 in coverage for their medical needs. The BOA says the policy is sports-specific.
As the old adage says, you get out what you put in. Barbados is ranked above us in football (their FIFA ranking is 162, while Belize is ranked at 170); they are ranked above us in basketball (their FIBA ranking is 86, while Belize is ranked at 119); and they are a cricketing nation, one that has produced some of the greatest cricketers the world has ever seen.
Barbados’s great sprinter, Obadele Thompson, who won bronze in the 100 meters in the 2000 Olympics, was mostly homegrown. Obadele, whose wife is our Marion Jones, improved his talent at the University of Texas at El Paso in the USA, but he was kicking up dust as a Barbados-grown high school youth.
If the government had been enlightened, they would have given the contract to our National Olympic Committee, and then Charles X would not have had to write in the Amandala (last week) about the woeful way we handle our retired athletes.
Charles X, citing the case of Peru, one of the most brilliant players we have produced, said:
“what drives our attention at this time is the stark reality of the tragedy and suffering faced by a destitute sportsman, who could have been helped by a fund financed through the Olympic Committee, had it secured the Boledo concession. Instead, we have to endure the sickening proposition that private individuals with political connections may be reaping all the sweets from the people’s vice, Boledo, while we all scramble to find a way to help our fallen brother.”
The felony of not giving the Boledo contract to the National Olympic Committee would be compounded if an accusation by Cayo South area representative, Hon. Julius Espat, is true. Hon. Espat, at the last meeting of the House of Representatives, told the nation that the main opposition party, the PUP, had evidence that the contract was given to a company that is connected to someone very close to the Prime Minister.
In deflecting the charge, the Prime Minister said that the contract was handled by the Lotteries Tender Committee, and that the contract wasn’t as lucrative as the PUP and other parties/groups had been suggesting. He said he thinks that the company that has the Boledo contract pays the government $2 million a year, and that prior to the privatization of Boledo the government wasn’t making a huge amount of money off it.
After the Boledo was privatized, all paper sales were done away with, and the game went fully electronic. Marco Lopez, in a story, “Brad’s Boledo and ‘The Prince of Bel-Air’”?, which was published in the Amandala of September 18, said, “It is common knowledge that the advancement of technology in the country and the digitalization of the various games controlled by Brad’s Gaming Group has led to wider and easier accessibility to the public; this computerized method has proved itself to be much more effective, and lucrative, than traditional sales of lottery tickets printed on paper.”
The present government claims that when it privatized the Boledo back in 2010, it knew that the game “needed to be electronic and the lottery draw equipment needed to be updated” because the people’s share from the game was being hurt by an antiquated system that allowed for unregulated sales.
Very well; Brad’s was given a ten-year contract to run the Boledo, and although in our world of non-transparent governance the numbers are hard to come by, the fact that the company wanted in again suggests that the contract was generous. What was the reason for giving them a second ten-year contract? Why is the government so secretive about the names of the persons who own the company?
The present government spent much of the Petro Caribe money to build stadiums across this country. They so loved sports that they built a SECOND world class football stadium in Belmopan, and a 33-million-dollar sports complex in the heart of Belize City. Yet, when they could have transferred some hard cash to support the athletes, they balked, they fell flat.
This newspaper put in a lot of effort to make semi-professional football and basketball a reality in Belize, but the players haven’t prospered as much as they could have, because our political leaders keep coming up woefully short.
At best, it was myopic to give Boledo to a private company. The government has to explain why they spurned the National Olympic Committee.