The “economic impact” of the “entertainment industry”

The authorities of the Dominican Central Bank (CB) consider of great importance the great economic impact of the tourism sector in the Dominican Republic. In fact, it is estimated that at least one third of the growth shown by the economy is precisely due to this sector.
However, the measurement of tourism is not only focused on hotel activity in the poles of destination of visitors, but is framed in a very diverse segment that the technicians of that institution define as “hotels, bars and restaurants”.

This indicates that when talking about tourism, there is a broad involvement of land, sea and air travel, the visits of non-resident Dominicans and foreigners, their lodging in hotels, their visits to visitor destinations, consumption in restaurants, bars, discotheques and any other formal and informal entertainment center, among others.

It is not by chance, then, that this number of activities is considered to have such an impact on the economy that they could be included in a more comprehensive concept, which would be “entertainment industry”, more than tourism and much more than “hotels, bars and restaurants”.

But why is its impact on the economy so broad? The reasons are diverse, although there is one that carries great weight, even if it is not directly visible: the laundering of assets or illicit money. This is because this “entertainment industry”, which also includes casinos, sports betting and lottery centers, among other legal, illegal and “hybrid” games of chance, lends itself favorably to the “cleaning” of money of illicit origin.

Seen in this way, it could be thought that the State, instead of highlighting the great contribution and economic impact of this activity, should establish mechanisms to control the laundering operations we are referring to, since it is something illegal.

However, this has other limitations: the first is that money laundering in the entertainment industry, although it is evident to anyone who has an exercise of consumption levels, prices and other aspects versus the economic condition of the country, also has the difficulty that it is something difficult to prove.

For example, in the cases of bars, restaurants and gambling, there is a lot of cash or consumer transactions with credit or debit cards, but with almost no practice of requesting invoices with tax receipt numbers (NCF) for tax reporting purposes.

This indicates that a bar or restaurant owner can report sales levels much higher than those actually made, take a very high amount of cash to the bank where his business account is, duly registered, and the financial entity will receive and enter them in the system (immediate cleaning) without further questioning, since the origin is assumed to be legitimate.

It may be that at some point the tax authority will be motivated to review the operations of certain establishments in the world of art and entertainment, but there enters another factor of difficulty or little motivation to investigate more deeply: the fact that these businesses generally pay their taxes up to date and complete (perhaps not to arouse suspicion or not to motivate the tax authorities to focus on them).

Meanwhile, the operations of that broad entertainment sector in general continues to operate, under the cover of companies and businesses that are duly registered and “legal”, since they are constituted as such, but that, given the large volumes of cash they handle, without invoices, with the justification in the clients themselves who do not ask for NCF, then they can take the large bundles of bills to deposit in the formal banks, which automatically implies the laundering of all that money.

The point is that it will never be known if the money reported as sales is all fruit of the clients’ consumption or if a large proportion of illicit origin entered in the package that finally reaches the formality. In the meantime, everyone wins: the owners of the businesses, the launderers who use them directly or indirectly, the beneficiaries of the economic dynamism implied by their operation and the State itself, based on the taxes it receives.


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Dominican Republic Live Editor

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