Puerto Rico Senate president: Firms lobbying fiscal board over video-lottery terminals
SAN JUAN – Puerto Rico Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz denounced Tuesday that lobbyists close to the chairman of the island’s fiscal oversight board, José Carrión III, do not want video-lottery machines legalized for personal interests.
“There are lobbyists from Scientific Games and Caribbean Cage close to the chairman of the board, relatives, friends of the chairman of the board, who want to stop the machines of Puerto Rican business people because of their own interests,” Rivera Schatz said at a press conference before the close of the ordinary session.
The lawmaker declined to answer whether passing the tax reform bill would be futile given the fiscal board’s objections. He said the matter was being discussed with House lawmakers. “I think we’ll have this issue resolved today,” he added.
On Monday, the executive director of the fiscal board, Natalie Jaresko, said the video lottery terminal provision was inconsistent with the certified fiscal plan, since the board had yet to “receive data supporting” its implementation “is revenue neutral and will not cannibalize existing Fiscal Plan revenue streams.”
Jaresko also said it was “important the bill text accounts for the full costs of implementation, operations, and regulations” from the proposal.
“The board has no moral authority here to request a report from anyone. The board should be accountable for the expense it has represented for the people of Puerto Rico without solving a single problem,” Rivera Schatz said.
He further said there are studies on the number of off-casino gaming machines on the island.
“Today, the machines are out there [making money] without contributing [taxes], as simple as that. They [terminal owners] want to legalize themselves and want to contribute. Furthermore, the income of those machines will be taxed. The board’s arguments are simply unsustainable,” he stressed.
In addition, he said the board issued contradictory government requests.
“For example, in a letter the fiscal control board sent us, it suggests we review the Act 154 tax of 4 percent that represents $2 billion of our budget. It suggests that we raise that tax. That is an option. What’s happening is the argument they use for the video lottery [machines] is it could endanger what the casinos generate. If that is the argument, there are voices that say that if the tax imposed by Law 154 is raised, it would endanger about $2 billion of the budget,” he said.
“There are constant inconsistencies on the part of the Fiscal Control Board and it is our responsibility to work for Puerto Rico, not for the board,” he added.