On Saturday, February 3, Stabroek News’ top story was: ‘Surinamese investor pulls gaming machines from delayed Sleep-In casino -gives two-month deadline for positive word on licence.’
The action by the Surinamese investor is a good lesson for us all. The truth is, there was no earthly reason to deny, delay or retard the casino application process, and in addition, reportedly threaten and undermine the application process by requesting that Sleep-In revoke and replace the auditor. I am that auditor.
Sleep-In seemingly acquiesced to the Gaming Authority. It was the passivity that the rubber-stamping Gaming Authority Board sought, to continue their vendetta against Sleep-In and the group that Sleep-In is perceived to favour and support. Also, as Auditor I became persona non-grata for the Gaming Authority, after I expressed my concerns about that body’s inexplicable behaviour. Auditors more eminent than I have found no anomaly in the audited financial statements, and now we are in the dead zone, with the Gaming Authority stalling, stymying or failing to make a decision.
Our celebrated or infamous President, Forbes Burnham once said, “God says before you were, I was. The party says to the government before you were, we were. The government has got to be in our system, a subordinate agency to the party.” Likewise, state boards are generally not independent or objective, in any colour or by any de facto analysis.
The Gaming Authority in April 2017 was provided with a new and all-inclusive casino licence application, with the following index of contents:
- Gaming Authority Board – Form 1 – Application for Casino Premises Licence
- Gaming Authority Board – Form 2 – Application for Casino Operator’s Licence
- Audited Financial Statements – 2016
- Audited Financial Statements: January 2017 – March 2017
- Bank of Baroda (Guyana) Inc, Deposit Slip dated March 28, 2017 for $25,000,000, into the Bank Account of Sleep-In International Hotel & Casino Inc, Current Account # 775 – Amount confirmed by External Auditor
- Investment Loans totalling $979,750,000, with source documents
- Statutory Declaration by Mr Clifton Elroy Bacchus, Company Secretary of Sleep-in International Hotel & Casino Inc
- Transport No 229/2016 for property in the name of Sleep-In International Hotel & Casino Inc, with property located at Lot 288 Church Street, Queenstown, Georgetown, Guyana
- Transport No 3078 of 2012 in the name of Mr Clifton Bacchus for Lot 289A Church Street, Queenstown, Georgetown, Guyana
- Articles of Incorporation of Sleep-In International Hotel & Casino Inc
- Certificate of Incorporation of Sleep-In International Hotel & Casino Inc, dated January 22, 2015
- Letter dated February 4, 2015, from Mr Keith Burrowes, then Chief Executive Officer of Guyana Office for Investment and Mr Mohabir Anil Nandlall, then Attorney General, with the attached Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of Guyana and Sleep-In International Hotel & Casino Inc
- Police Clearance for:
- Zena Charlene Paul
- Clifton Elroy Bacchus
- Jennifer Fiona Paul-Bacchus
- Financial Ratios and Analysis of Sleep-in International Hotel & Casino Inc based on January to March 2017 Audited Financial Statements, attesting to the Financial Soundness and Capability of the Applicant, Sleep-In International Hotel & Casino Inc
- Cheque for $9,000,000 in favour of the Gaming Authority Board, drawn on Bank of Baroda (Guyana) Inc and issued by Sleep-In International Hotel & Casino Inc
Subsequently, individual tax returns of the directors and supporting documentation for the source of funds were provided to the Gaming Authority, upon their request. The tide has now receded and to paraphrase Warren Buffet, we can see the nakedness of the Gaming Authority Board.
Maybe we should have asked for multiple years of individual tax returns from Darren Woods, CEO and Chairman of ExxonMobil and the other ExxonMobil directors. But we can’t have that; these are foreigners from an extremely ‘reputable’ company.
The dissimulation of the Gaming Authority is evidenced in a most visual manner by the repossession of some of the gaming machines from Sleep-In by one of the investors. What a tragedy for local business entrepreneurs.
Now what are the options for the self-described independent and objective Gaming Authority? After having received a comprehensive application that complied with the requirements of the Gambling Prevention Act and the other statutes the Gaming Authority claims relevancy under, the options are to issue the licences or adhere to the preceding option. However, we are not dealing with an independent or objective Gaming Authority, and thus, there is only one directive they will execute.
As Walter Rodney noted in his book, The Groundings with my Brothers “Why not struggle for multi-racial and harmonious living, which nobody on a theoretical level would oppose. This is what we are struggling for.”