Bahamas parliament passes controversial Gaming Bill
Following several days of heated debate, a controversial Gaming Bill was passed in the Bahamas House of Assembly on Monday with 25 yes votes and seven no votes.
The bill maintains the provision that prohibits people ordinarily resident in The Bahamas from gambling in casinos.
However, it does contain a provision that would allow the minister with responsibility for gaming to override that discriminatory element.
The bill will lead to the regulation of the web shop industry.
Prime Minister Perry Christie said in the House of Assembly on Monday the country is expected to benefit from millions of dollars in additional revenue once the regularization process is complete.
Despite previous projections that web shop taxes would generate $12 million annually, Christie said the government stands to collect more than twice that amount.
However, he noted that the new projections are based on unverified information received from the majority of the web shop operators.
“The economic impact from these comprehensive gaming measures will be considerable and will stimulate economic growth for the public benefit as well as enhance government revenues and fiscal policies,” Christie said.
According to the prime minister, the government is projected to collect $25 million in penalties, back business licence fees, and application fees payable during the transition period.
As a penalty, web shop operators will be required to pay business licence fees and gaming taxes for a period of six years in lieu of taxes which would have been paid had the businesses been licensed under the act.
Those web shops that have not been in business for five years or more will pay $250,000 for the years that they’ve been in business.
As for the actual taxes, Christie said the government is projected to take in between $22 million and $29 million annually.
Gaming house operators will be required to pay 11 percent of the taxable revenue or 25 percent of earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, depending on which one is greater.
Christie said the current level of employment, which is estimated around 3,000, should stabilize and further improve in a regulated environment.
During the budget process, the government projected it would generate approximately $12 million in web shop taxes.
Christie said the updated projected revenue is subject to change after the web shop operators present audited or verifiable financial statements, and the licensing process of gaming houses has been completed.