Categorized | National News

Gaming Boss Calls For Fair Game In Casino Industry

Leading web shop boss Sebas Bastian called for an end to discrimination in the gaming industry and he urged the government to level the playing field that will allow for fair play.

While there has been a push calling for Bahamians to be allowed to gamble in casinos, Mr. Bastian, the CEO of Island Luck’s Chief said that opening casino gaming to Bahamians is not the only issue.

Mr. Bastian said there are more elements of discrimination that relate to gaming for the government to address as well.

“We always only talk about one component of the discrimination and that’s the access component and there are three components to discrimination and those are access, equality and ownership so we can’t tackle one without tackling the rest,” he said.

“So although I have no objection to Bahamians going into casinos, I cannot support that if we’re only going to tackle one element of the discrimination, you can’t allow access and leave the discrimination as it relates to equality and ownership as well so let’s just level the whole playing field and take The Bahamas to the next frontier as it relates to gaming.”

He also addressed the controversy surrounding the ban of foreign visitors from web shops.

“Everything isn’t a light switch, like everybody tries to make them out to be, there is a lot of research and different things that you have to consider when you’re dealing with different fees and I think that’s one of the issues right now with Bahamians going into casinos – not that the government doesn’t want to do that, there is foreign exchange implications because our imminent foreign reserves can be impacted, there are international regulatory things that have to happen before you can just cross those types of boarders,” he said.

“This is the first step, we’re encouraged and support the first step but there is a road map that has to be followed in order to get to the true end goal, I think if people exercise a little more patience and try to understand the process and accept it as a process, I think everyone will be happy at the end game as it all unfolds.”

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

Minister with responsibility for Gaming Obie Wilchombe explained that the legislation paves the way for Bahamians to gamble in casinos.

He also revealed that it opens the door for a national lottery, however he stressed that the process will be a gradual one but under the discretion of the gaming minister.

Mr. Wilchombe gave no indication of the government’s intention to address Bahamian ownership and equality in the casino industry.

Overall, Mr. Bastian said the government did an excellent job in putting the legislation together; however he does have a concern with the rates and fees levied against the web shop industry.

“We look at some of the rates and fees and some of them looked a little suspect at first but we carried out research just to make sure that they’re consistent with international best practices, we’re defiantly reviewing them and we’re comparing them to neighbouring regions and jurisdictions and comparing them to rates with casinos,” he said.

“At first glance as it relates to the fees, all the fees seem consistent it’s just the back and forth as it relates to the taxes, so it’s just a matter of doing the research and making sure that everybody is on a level playing field but I’m always a proponent of government using taxes we’re excited to be a part of an industry that can generate taxes for our country in this much needed time.”
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, taxes, depreciation and amortization depending on which is greater.

The 2014 regulations also revealed that the annual Gaming House Operator License 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 – such fees will have to be paid annually.

Mr. Bastian was not willing to share any additional concerns that he and other web shop bosses have regarding the gaming bill, but he did say that last week Thursday web shop bosses submitted their concerns to the government.

At the moment they await the government’s response.

“The government is taking their time with it – this is was why it not tabled in July as it was planned and I think that I trust that they will do the most fair and responsible thing and we’re just giving them the time to iron out the kinks and the concerns we may or may not have and I’ll just trust in the leaders to do the right thing at the end of the day,” he said.

“At the end of the day, they’re the policy makers we elected them act on our behalf and I’ll respect whatever decision the government comes back with.”

Debate on the gaming bill begins Wednesday.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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