SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - The claims that Minister of TEATT the honourable Stuart Johnson issued a license for the establishment of a Casino on Back Street in the former Super Plaza Building as Caretaker Minister, has been flatly refuted by Johnson as the license in question was issued since January 2019.
Reports hat the Casino License somehow contravened the rule of law as it pertains to the issuance of casino license, are also inaccurate. These claims have not taken into account the fact that the license was issued under several conditions including a restriction from the license holder creating access to the establishment from Cannegieter Street.
The allegations stem from the belief that the new casino if it commences operation, would be too close to the Sundial School and the Philipsburg Jubilee Library. However, this claim did not consider the fact that at least one other casino has for years operated within proximity of the supposed "sensitive establishments." When the license was issued, it was clear that the Library would also not be returning to the present location.
On Wednesday, Minister Johnson said he was shocked at those allegations. He said, "With the Country headed into yet another election following nine years of nine new governments I expect some rhetoric, but I had hoped that there would be some improvements to the level of discourse and the rhetoric would be less."
Johnson said, "This license considered the economic impact and the 50 local jobs it would create when it opens."
"We also considered the sensitive establishments, but we stipulated with the license holder that while we do not discourage new business, we were keen not to have these businesses form an impediment to our ability to protect the social wellbeing of our citizens," said Johnson.
He said that the fact that the property owner for the establishment and the license holder were in legal disputes over the terms of their agreement is no cause for the intervention of the Ministry of TEATT.
"I did not sign up to act as landlord and collect money from tenants, and if any Member of Parliament sees it fit to intervene in this regard, then I cannot stop them. However, my concern is the proper execution of a license I issued and the adherence to the rules and laws associated with that license. If there is a breach of these established terms, then the Ministry of TEATT will intervene as is stated when the license was issued," said Johnson.
Johnson said that the claims of tax evasion by the license holder or those of alleged failure to pay contractor are essential enough issues to be addressed. However, according to the Minister, these matters have their place in a court of law or can be settled by a mediator ", but as Minister, it is not our position to become involved in these matters."
Johnson has expressed hope that the matter is settled amicably and the new business can be adequately established. Several casinos are nearby the "sensitive establishments" both on Front Street and on the Cannegieter Street for many years. "The Ministry has reviewed this license thoroughly and found it to be in keeping with a clear respect for sensitive areas and aligned with my consistent drive to increase job opportunities for the people of this country, which I will continue to work on until my last day in office," said Johnson.