Let casino workers plant peas in Cumuto

By Raffique Shah
October 26, 2017

Raffique ShahIt says so much about this country, about the national psyche, when, in the wake of a budget that will impact the cost of living almost across the board, reducing people’s purchasing power, the most vociferous protests are coming from gambling establishments that add nothing productive to the economy, but enrich a handful of casino owners, pauperise thousands of families, reduce many female gamblers to prostitutes, and provide the biggest avenue for laundering the ill-gotten gains of criminal enterprises, in particular money from the illicit drugs and firearms trades.

The taxi operators who provide an essential service, and who have faced increase fuel costs from the moment Finance Minister Colm Imbert announced new gasoline and diesel prices, have hinted at increases in fares, but otherwise remained relatively mute. Truckers have stayed silent. Corporate Trinidad and Tobago, which will now pay more tax on profits, have voiced their concerns in a reasoned manner at several post-Budget forums.

But none of these legitimate stakeholders have been as vociferous, I dare say as cantankerous, as the managers and employees of the gambling houses, which are euphemistically called the “gaming industry”: industry my foot! Note well, those at the forefront of the protests are the employees, never the faceless owners. Note too that they are almost all women, and their cry is that they face retrenchment because of the 100 percent increase in taxes or license fees imposed by Government.

As a human being, especially one with compassion for the poor and downtrodden in society, I feel for any and every one who loses his or her job because of the state of the economy. It must be beyond traumatic to turn up to work one day and be told by your boss that you no longer have a job, whatever the reason. How do you feed yourself and your family? What of the rent, your children’s education, hell, your very existence?

So I sympathise with the casino employees who claim to have lost their jobs, even as I harbor doubts about their claims. I insert this caveat because I don’t know that the new taxes kicked in the way increased fuel prices did. I have a nagging feeling that their protests have been orchestrated by the owners who have decided to use the only sympathy-card they have—the threat of loss of jobs that will affect mainly young, black women, many of whom claim to be single parents.

What none of them will say is that their job-specifications include inducing foolish people to part with their sometimes hard-earned salaries on card tables or slot machines, which is in fact banditry with consent. They who are seeking public sympathy will never speak of the thousands, of gullible women who all but live at these establishments, throwing their savings, housekeeping money, even their children’s allowances after the ever-elusive jackpots.

The protestors will never speak of patrons who are addicted to gambling to the extent that when their cash runs out they sell their bodies to get more money to fatten the casino owners’ bulging bank accounts. The workers won’t talk about owners lending money to desperate gamblers, using vehicles and real estate as collateral, and mercilessly seizing them when the addicts predictably lose at the machines or tables.

Nor will they dare mention the shady men and women who routinely turn up with huge amounts of cash, and who are happy to leave with half their initial outlays-newly laundered dollars. That the source of such money was a drugs deal or an illegal firearms sale, veritable blood money, is of no concern to the casino workers who are seeking our sympathy.

To tell me that people will gamble anyway, casinos or no casinos, is like telling me we will always have drug addicts, bandits and murderers among us. It is fact, but we do not have to resign ourselves to coexisting with evil. Too many lives have been ruined inside these expensively-decorated, lavishly-furnished houses of dubious repute.

As far as I am concerned, Government can apply 100 percent taxes to the earnings and winnings of all forms of gambling—the National Lotteries Control Board’s games included. The latter have negatively affected the national work ethic like no other factor: all day, every day, big “hardback” men (and women!) only “playing ah mark”.

Lease agricultural lands to the casino workers, give them the opportunity to contribute to a real industry—food production. Or give them seed capital to go downstream, making in their kitchens hard-to-find, nutritious delicacies such as tooloom, tamarind balls, paw paw candy and many more local treats. These, and other, similar business ventures can be much more rewarding than what they are paid to pick foolish gamblers’ pockets at casinos.

And don’t they dare tell me they “cyah take de sun” planting peas in Cumuto or selling sweets on Charlotte Street. They marched up and down the streets of Port of Spain in blazing sun and pouring rain, pursuing their bosses’ interests. Here’s an opportunity for them to get a real life, to be mistresses of their own destiny.

5 thoughts on “Let casino workers plant peas in Cumuto”

  1. Excellent Post, Mr Shah. Why Trinidad and Tobagoian. DONT want to pay TAXES. dONT WANT TO TIGHTEN THEIR BELT??????

  2. Why certain members of the Syrian community and politicians in their shadow government don’t go and plant peas?
    The problem is that the elite in society live in a bubble insulated from the rest of Trinidad.Issues affecting the vast majority of the population do not affect them they are immune from the daily problems facing the common man.

  3. Gambling is essentially a tax on the foolish. I have a friend who wanted money, I sent him a $1000 only to realise later that it went into the Casino.

    Most of the Casinos are foreign own and the money sails right out of the country. The only state enterprise that made money and passed champayne around to its workers was the NLCB. They made over $300 million compared to other state enterprises that have a combined $41 billion deficit.

    Personally, I think the government should take control of the $11 billion gambling industry. It should come under one state enterprise and all the money collected be specifically used in the health and education sector. Gambling revenue increases when there is high level of uncertainty in the economy. It is a bad habit that will never go away. Foreigners and expat come to the country and the first place they go to is the Casino. Easy money for the government if they know how to manage this industry well enough.

    Presently the government gets a pittance from this $11 billion industry that remains unregulated. It is time they take control of it to the benefit of the citizenry!

  4. Is there any country in the world that has succeeded in taxing its way out of a recession? That country does not exist.
    To suggest that casino workers should plant peas is not only insulting but callous. Shah has repeatedly preached against gambling on the premise that it is immoral, wasteful and illegal. Yet, no comments were made on lottery exploitation by the government. What about alcohol consumption? Why stop at gambling? What about the numerous whorehouses all over the country masquerading as nightclubs and private clubs? What about the reputation of T&T as having one of the most porn internet hits in the world?
    Casinos are a worldwide phenomenon. They should be regulated and taxed like all other businesses. There should be voluntary exclusion programs for gambling addicts. Treatment programs should be provided for addicts.There are many people who enjoy the social aspects of casinos without being involved in addiction, crime or other illegal activities.Casinos could also be used to raise funds for many charities.
    If we are going to morally pontificate about casinos we should reflect on the numerous more harmful vices and socially “acceptable” habits which sometimes dominate our behaviors.
    Why do we spend so much on imported Scotch?
    Why do we denigrate ourselves by vulgar displays of wining and twerking from cradle to grave?
    Why is alcohol the staple of every government function?
    T&T has deteriorated into a very immoral, murderous, violent and corrupt society.Why reduce casino workers to planting peas?

  5. if the casino is an evil as you say then close it down but yet the government allow it to be and then tax on these evil really mr shah and also you want to remove our right of choice of what we do with over money, finally you forgot about taking away cigarettes and alcohol another two evils

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