It’s an institution that was evolved from the Panama Boledo and has become a national habit for thousands of faithful Belizeans. But the rules of the nightly game and the Sunday draw are about to change, and that is because the Boledo/Lottery is about to be privatized. News Five’s Jose Sanchez found out that Government hopes to double its revenue from the Boledo.

Jose Sanchez, Reporting
The Boledo Lottery Draw takes place like clockwork every night at 9:10 at the Courthouse in Belize City. 20 balls are loaded into 2 mixing chambers and they bounce until 2 random balls pop into the chamber. The winning numbers are then immediately written on the Bulletin Board. It is all tradition, but tradition that will soon come to an end. The Government is about to award a contract for a private entity to manage the Boledo draw.

Edmund Zuniga, Chair, Selection of Tenders Panel
“I have been asked by Government to chair a committee called the Selection of Tenders Panel. That has to do with looking at the conditions, as well as eventually selecting a contractor to whom Government would outsource the management of the national lotteries.”

Jose Sanchez
“How long has this been ongoing?”

Edmund Zuniga
“Our committee has been meeting now for a month. Perhaps we’ve held about 2 or 3 meetings, and we’re holding a meeting today.”

Jose Sanchez
“The tendering process, is it complete?”

Edmund Zuniga
“We’ve put out the initial advertisement in the papers which we call the first round, where we invite all those persons interested to put in a bid or a tender. Today’s meeting is really to work on the second round conditions as well as open tenders we received from the first round.”

Jose Sanchez
“the question people may ask: is this privatization?”

Edmund Zuniga
“No, it’s not privatisation, Government wishes to outsource the management of the national lotteries, and that is what we’re looking at.”

Jose Sanchez
“Will there still be a profit going into the Government coffers?”

Edmund Zuniga
“We expect that one of the benefits of outsourcing the management is that Government is going to get a minimum of $2 million per year out of the contract.”

Jose Sanchez
“What is the average income received per year from the lottery under the management of the Government?”

Edmund Zuniga
“Currently it’s about $1 million per year and that goes into a fund for social activities. We are going to put out a second round tender, and then we will look at those bids that come out of the second round and get a final contractor, which is going to be proposed to Cabinet, who will make a final decision.”

Jose Sanchez
“How long more or less before we actually get the name or names?”

Edmund Zuniga
“Based on the work plan, we figure the end of September, early October.”

Jose Sanchez
“You said it’s not privatization. What is the difference between privatization and outsourcing?”

Edmund Zuniga
“In my view, privatisation is selling off the whole lotteries operations. What the Government is going to do is get someone to operate it and pay Government a fee for a period.”

Jose Sanchez
“And how long will this period be for?”

Edmund Zuniga
“For 10 years. It’s a 10-year contract.”

10 years is a very long time for the management of an industry that is primarily run by the Asian community in Belize. The president of the Belize Chinese Association says it will have an impact.

Lee Mark Chang, President, Belize Chinese Association
“We have to see what type of proposal is given to Government and see how it will benefit both Government and the Chinese community together.”

Jose Sanchez
“When it comes to organization, do you see anything negative or positive regarding this move?”

Lee Mark Chang
“Hopefully we can avoid the sale of illegal lottery in Belize. Hopefully, the new program will omit that, so there is less friction between the Government and the Chinese community. Hopefully, the Government can also get the revenue they deserve and the community can also sell Boledo legally.”

Jose Sanchez
“With the increase, revenues are expected to be doubled. How will that be accomplished without raising the price of the Boledo?”

Lee Mark Chang
“That is for the sellers to decide and the person who is bidding to decide how to work it out. Unfortunately, I am not a Boledo seller, so I wouldn’t know the details of how they would manage to do it. But where there is a will, there is a way.”

Jose Sanchez
“So no problems from the Chinese community regarding it?”

Lee Mark Chang
“We have to see the application and the business plan the person who is bidding is bringing out.”

Well known names of politically connected persons have entered the bidding process. But for the time being, the balls will roll uninterrupted at the Courthouse. Reporting for News Five, Jose Sanchez.

Channel 5