A pedestrian walks past a closed lotto booth on the Eastern Main Road, Curepe, yesterday.

Two days after the Government took a decision to shut down the National Lotteries Control Board (NLCB) gaming machines across the country in adherence with the Emergency Powers Regulations, chairman of the Agents Committee Dean Persad has appealed to Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley to allow its agents to operate, saying he closure will bring untold hardship and suffering to them.

In a letter emailed to Rowley yesterday, Persad pointed out that many of the gaming agents have expressed an interest in working.

“We are suggesting that those agents who are willing to operate and take the risks should be allowed to, of course, with full adherence to COVID regulations.”

Persad added, “I know you would be hard-pressed to find a balance between people and profits.”

The letter was copied to NLCB chairman Eustace Nancis.

Of the 1,200 agents who are now out of jobs, the majority are willing to work during the pandemic.

Persad told the PM that while he lent support to the Government, country and citizens in these challenging times, “our agents are not allowed to operate. This would bring untold hardships to most of us, as this is the sole source of income for many.”

On Monday, the NLCB suspended all its games under the latest regulation which prohibits “a common gaming house or betting office licensed under the Gaming and Betting Act.”

Stating the agents’ role was critical in raking in much-needed revenue for the Government, Persad told Rowley they are seeking resolutions to three issues affecting agents – the removal of the $100 weekly fee, commissions increase of at least 12 per cent and disbursement of the 2020 pandemic relief grant.

“These are not conditions or prerequisite to commence operations but rather a motivation and encouragement. This would be risky for agents and we would like to be shown some appreciation and given proper compensation and consideration for our efforts,” Persad stated.

Achieving the three objectives, Persad stated, would do a world of good for the agents’ psyche and improve their willingness to work.

“It would definitely improve the relationship between agents and NLCB…something that is sorely lacking at this time,” Persad told Rowley.

In a brief telephone interview with Guardian Media, Persad said the unemployed agents are growing exceedingly worried, as they are unable to pay their rents and bills and put food on the table for their families due to the regulations imposed.

“They are also fearful that if the SoE and curfew prolong they would also lose the locations they currently rent in malls and bars. I know of one agent who pays as much as $9,000 a month for a small spot in the mall. This is weighing heavy on their minds,” Persad said.