The Jamaica Umbrella Group of Churches has frowned heavily on the Government's initiative to tax lottery tickets which will now be sold on Sundays and public holidays.
It believes the Government should facilitate more creative ways to generate revenue.
Reverend Gary Harriott, spokesperson for the umbrella group, argued that the focus should be on productivity, rather than the quick-rich mentality of lottery winnings.
“I really do not believe that gambling is a basis on which the country can build the economy. We would encourage our government to focus its attention on production: putting our people to work, creating the environment where people will go to work, where people will produce. That we believe is a more healthy way for the society. While we are in this plight we have to bear in mind the values or the importance of our morals and we cannot afford to trade that for the expediency of the moment,” said Reverend Harriott.
Reverend Harriott is encouraging the Government to adopt a new approach to taxation in general.
“We would love to see a different approach to the whole issue of income generation. Over the years we tend to be taxing the same people, and as a body, we would love to see the tax net being widened. Those who are supposed to be paying their taxes – that a strategy or strategies be put in place to have everybody come on board in terms of carrying their portion of the tax burden.”
In the meantime, lottery company Supreme Ventures is staying away from the debate on Sunday betting.
Brian George, the company's chief executive officer (CEO) said while he respects the Church's position he's looking at the situation from an economic point of view.
“It is a difficult debate to get into as to whether or not who are you respecting or disrespecting from doing that. I look at it purely in economic terms. The country is in crisis. It is not a crisis that came up overnight and is a crisis that long has had to be addressed. It is looking for all of the revenue sources. I don’t get into debate as to whether or not Sunday gaming or non-Sunday gaming is right. There are other people who will deal with that and I respect their views and I will support their right to have those views," said Mr George who was speaking on ‘Beyond the Headlines’ on Thursday.