Arima Race Club (ARC), in its desperate search for money for the cash-strapped Club, is dipping into the Benevolent Fund, which is held by the Trinidad and Tobago Racing Authority (TTRA) to help pay stakes owed to owners.
The Fund, which has more than $2.5million collected from fines imposed on trainers and jockeys for various racing offences over the years has been accruing interest at two financial institutions.
Sources say that since last year the ARC has been trying to get its hand on the money from the Fund to help offset part of the huge $8 million owed to owners for stakes.
Last week the Club got $400,000 in two tranches to pay owners who have been owed for the last 34 racing days in 2019. So far, the ARC has paid only 15 and one-half days. Part of commissions owed to jockeys was paid two weeks ago after a threat by them not to ride last race day.
But up to last Friday owners say they have not received any money.
A reliable source said that when Trade and Industry Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon met with members of the ARC, TTRA and the BLB sometime last year, the issue of using money from the Benevolent Fund was raised and the Minister promised to ask her legal department to look into the matter. However, she was told that it was illegal for the ARC to use the money to pay its debts to owners.
Now the Minister has reportedly changed her stand and last week Gopee-Scoon sent a letter to the TTRA authorizing the release of the money from the Fund to the ARC.
Some observers are saying it appears that the Minister gave the TTRA a “jerry” by saying it was illegal to use the Fund and has now given the Board the green light to release the money.
Some stakeholders are asking how and when the ARC is going to pay back the money to the TTRA.
They are hoping that the money would not be used to pay US$90,000 (more than $500,000) owed to the New York Racing Association (NYRA) for “live” simulcast racing from New York.
The Club has offered to pay NYRA some US$17,000 so as to get back the “live” broadcast from the popular Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga race tracks.