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Bahamians Could Play Casino Games In Future

Bahamians could one day be allowed to gamble in casinos – ending years of discrimination, however Tourism Minister Obie Wilchombe, who has responsibility for gaming, told The Bahama Journal that this will not happen overnight as the process to get there will be a gradual one.

At the moment Mr. Wiclchombe said, the government is focused on regulating the industry as a whole.

“The minster now has the authority through regulations to determine who can participate in games in the casinos and games in web shops, it’s all in the bill, its apart of the new move forward which will be Bahamians, if the case comes and we want to make that case for Bahamians to gamble then regulations will be brought to parliament,” he said.

“This emphasise a gradual process, the first thing were doing is regulating what exist today, the second thing where going to do is look at where we go from here, it might mean Bahamians in casinos it might mean a national lottery , all that’s inclusive but it all depends upon the minister moving regulations. The new legislation will also empower the minister responsible for gaming to make regulations permitting participation in the types of gaming contemplated in casinos and gaming houses by any category or all categories of persons, which may regulate the circumstances under which and the conditions subject to which such participation shall be permitted.”

In an effort to revolutionize the gaming industry in The Bahamas to allow Bahamians to legally gamble in web shops, casinos and broaden the scope for casino operators, the government on Wednesday tabled the much anticipated gaming legislation in the House of Assembly.

Mr. Wilchombe explained what Bahamians can expect under the new regime of taxing web shops.

“Licenses will be granted pursuant to detailed criteria to be set forth in an RFP, containing appropriate minimum criteria for the licensing of web shops, on the basis of which the application and licensing process will be managed,” he said.

“The new law will provide for the issuance of a Gaming House Operator Licence to existing operators. The new Gaming Bill will also provide for the issuance of Gaming House Premises Licences and Gaming House Agent Licences. Gaming House Operator Licence shall be issued only to a fully Bahamian-owned company and may only be applied for in response to a formal invitation to apply for such licence. Gaming House Premises Licence provides for a separate gaming house premises licenses to be issued in respect of the dedicated premise.”

Provision has also been made in the Gaming Bill for two additional categories of licenses, namely Key Employee Licenses and Gaming Employee Licenses.

According to Gaming House Operator Regulations 2014, under section 64 of the Act, the holder of a gaming license will be taxed 11 per cent of the taxable revenue or 25 per cent of earnings before interest of taxes depending on which is greater.

The 2014 regulations also revealed that the annual Gaming House License and Operator fee will cost $250,000, the Gaming House Premises License will cost $2,000 dollars, the Gaming House Agent License will cost $1,000, the Key Employee License will cost $120 and the Gaming Employee License will cost $80

Mr. Wilchombe said that the bill also presents a provision for a supplier license which will be required by every person who distributes repairs, maintains, alters, modifies or otherwise directly supplies any gaming device, and may only be issued to a company.

He also assured that the bill will open the door for a national lottery and various forms of lottery.

“A new provision has been included in the Gaming Bill to empower the minister to authorise the conduct of a National Lottery in The Bahamas, and to appoint a service provider to operate the national lottery under a management contract,” he said.

“The Gaming Bill further provides for the minister to make regulations (inter alia) governing the management contract. The Gaming Bill also confirms the ongoing illegality of all other lotteries other than – any national lottery that may be implemented, charitable lotteries, private lotteries, lotteries which are incidental to certain entertainment events and the numbers game, when offered by the holder of a gaming house operator licence.”

The basic taxes for casinos on the other hand, remain unchanged however new license measures, taxes and fees are provided for restricted interactive, proxy and mobile gaming.

The bill empowers the gaming minister to set fees in respect to various licences to allow greater flexibility to amend fees and the taxation structure in the future.

Mr. Wilchombe assured that much consultation was taken to ensure that the future regulation of the gaming industry meet international standards.

“In conformity with international best practices and in full compliance with the prevailing anti-money laundering and counter terrorist financing requirements, consultation led by the Attorney General has taken place with the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to ensure that the provisions of the proposed legislation and procedures will be in compliance with FATF guidelines so as to ensure acceptance by banks of proceeds from legalized and regulated casinos and web shop operators,” he said.

He added that consultations continue with clearing banks operating in the country, a board will be formed to not only monitor the collection of taxes but will impose penalties as well to licence holders who do not met the necessary requirements.

Debate on the gaming bill begins next Wednesday.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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