Wednesday
April 16, 2014

After gambling bill benefits K businessman Cristóbal lópez

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Macri denies under-the-table negotiations with Kirchnerism

One day after a PRO-Kirchnerite agreement in BA City Legislature had opened the door to a controversial law to benefit Kirchnerite gaming czar Cristóbal López, Mayor Mauricio Macri publicly denied yesterday any under-the-table negotiation with Kirchnerism, as some opponents have been denouncing recently.
“We did not cancel anything. We did not extend any deadline. The only real thing here is there was an activity operating in the City which pays nothing and now we are going to collect some of its profits,” Macri told AM 790 Mitre radio station.
The PRO leader chose those words to deny any political pact with one of late former president Néstor Kirchner’s favourites among businessmen. López is said to have built up a national empire from his Patagonian background, thanks to his strong bonds to Kirchner during his political career. Even after Néstor’s death, he remained close to Kirchnerism’s top leadership.
“Nobody resigns to court claims. Otherwise, we would be talking about cancelling (the money they owe) and we are not,” Macri added.
The bill’s paragraphs, however, stated a different thing, as some lawmakers who tried to bring down the bill recalled in dialogue with the press. Players involved accept that with payment of the agreed sum (three percent of annual profits) expires all intention of taxing gross annual earnings or any other specific taxation of gaming operations, they highlighted.
Gaming taxation is a decade-long struggle between the BA city authorities and local operators. City Hall even filled a complaint in court over tax revenues collected from the Palermo racetrack’s slot-machines and Puerto Madero’s so-called “floating casino” but the ruling went against them.
In both cases, the court understood that authorizations for gaming operations were decided by the National Lottery agency and that both were run on federal premises and therefore there was no need to pay taxes into the City’s coffers.
Back in 2008, Macri’s administration tried once again to tax gaming with eight percent of its gross annual earnings but a court injunction blocked this move.
Surprisingly, two years later, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of City Hall but then it was Macri’s decision not to continue pressuring gaming operators over their past debts.
The new City law exempts local gaming operators like López from paying future taxes over their annual gross earnings in exchange for a three percent contribution from its annual revenues to City Hall.
In other words, the BA City government ends up pocketing less than half the profits it intended to collect during its 2008 effort to tax gaming.
In exchange, the so-called political pact between Kirchnerism and Macri’s administration included an increase of the tax revenues the National Lottery had been sharing since 2003 with City Hall.
“Ten years have passed since the understanding signed by City and national authorities and there is still no online monitoring (of this activity)”, Radical legislator Rubén Campos mentioned.
“Nobody really knows how much money these operators make and, consequently, the sum they should be paying to the Treasury”.
Back in 2003, Mayor Aníbal Ibarra accepted a 35 percent share of the National Lottery’s gaming revenues. After last Monday’s vote, City Hall will be transferred up to 50 percent of the total share.
Last year, City Hall pocketed 350 million pesos from gaming revenues. Now they will collect an extra 300 million pesos thanks to the City’s new law. On the way, though, they backpedalled on claiming last year’s two billion pesos of tax arrears.
“It’s a gift to gaming operators because City Hall will no longer be able to collect backdated payments they could never afford,” the Civic Coalition’s Fernando Sánchez claimed during his last session before assuming his national Congress seat for UNEN.
The bill was passed with 42 positive votes, including Macri’s allies and most Kirchnerites.
Herald staff with online media
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