By Richard Harrison:
Boledo and Lottery are games of chance where the player buys tickets with numbers and get to win multiples of the price of each ticket.
Boledo is played daily, while the Lottery is played on Sundays, mostly by poor people hoping to collect gold at the end of the rainbow.
These games are owned by the Government of Belize, but they license it out to a private operator, linked to the political party in power. There has been two operators since Independence, and both of them Chinese. The first was there for decades, and was said to be linked to senior persons in the PUP and the second operator was licensed shortly after the UDP came to power in 2008 and is said to be associated with a well-placed political figure of the ruling UDP.
The PUP government used to collect $1 million per year for this license and when the UDP government changed the license to its own favorite, they said they were doing this in the best interest of Belize and raised the license to $2 million per year (a whopping 100% increase in benefits for the people of Belize they argued).
BUT, the boledo and lottery are estimated to gross sales of around $30 million per year with payouts of around $8 million, making the profits estimate of around $22 million. THUS, paying the government license of $2 million still leaves $20 million in hand. This is a lot of money, power and influence in a few buttered hands with a very narrow range of personal interest.
It used to be that many Belizeans earned a living from selling tickets on commission but lately, many of them have been cut off from selling with most of the sales now back in the hands of Chinese merchants through their many scores of retail outlets that have proliferated across the country, even to small villages. This is an unwelcome trend that needs to be corrected.
Indeed, the boledo and lottery should be administered by a Board of Trustees appointed by the Government and Governor General. It SHOULD NOT not be licensed out to private players for such a low license fee.
If the net gains after operations is $16 million per year, this money could go to provide concessionary financing for 320 small and medium enterprises with start-up or growth capital of $50,000 each. This could potentially create 1,000 new jobs in the short term.
Alternatively, it could be used to finance a very active Bliss Institute for the Performing Arts, the Miss Belize Universe, the National Football Team, the National Softball Team, the National Olympic Team, among many others, including a compact National Rapid Response Team to respond to natural and man made disasters anywhere in the world with very short notice; something that will serve Belize well, but which we can also use to help our friends (and not so friends) in our own small way when they suffer hurt. The Belize flag can be one of the first to appear at ground zero. All of these would be investments with very high positive returns for ALL the people of Belize.
There are so many other more constructive ways in which the revenues from boledo and lottery can be used. You may have your own ideas.
The point is, Belizeans must demand that the boledo and lottery be placed into proper context and content and it must serve the people of Belize first and foremost not a small politico-ethnic elite.
This article was written by Richard Harrison, Belizean investor in production and services businesses in Belize. He holds a Masters in Business Administration degree from Lancaster University.