Customs move in
Customs?yesterday morning?pulled?the plug on 349 video lottery terminals (VLTs) belonging to CAGE Caribbean because of unpaid fees licensing.But last night the company obtained an injunction from the High Court which will allow it to operate its machines until Tuesday when the matter comes up for hearing.A representative for the Comptroller of Customs confirmed to the WEEKEND NATION that the company’s failure to pay fees prompted the shut-down of machines at about 52 locations throughout the island. Under the Betting and Gaming Duties Act which was ammended earlier this year, operators of the VLTs are now required to pay a licence fee of $15 000 per machine annually and $300 000 per arcade. It is estimated CAGE owes the Government in excess of six million dollars. The customs spokesman said officers had planned to monitor the locations of the VLTs operations for any breaches of the shutdown order. Failure would have resulted in customs authorities physically removing the VLTs from their locations, he said.That monitoring plan is not now necessary. CAGE’s legal representative Garth Patterson QC described the action as illegal.“Its a naked abuse of power by the government and a grotesque disregard for the rule of law and due process by the Comptroller of Customs and the Ministry of Finance having been served an application for an interim order to restrain them from doing the same thing.“They have done this in the face of a pending application,” he said.In a High Court writ filed last month CAGE sued Government for $94 million.The company claims Government breached its legitimate expectation with regard to the operation of the VLTs. In addition to charging government with reneging on its promises, the company urged the High Court to quash a ruling by the Betting and Gaming Committee which designated VLTs to be gaming machines, thereby obligating them to pay the same licence fees as slot machines.The Barbados Association of Slot Machine Operators had complained for some time that the VLT operators were paying a lot less in fees but were enjoying the same facilties as the slots.