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‘Pay Up Or We’Ll Shut You Down’

Dionisio D’Aguilar

Dionisio D’Aguilar

By KHRISNA RUSSELL

Deputy Chief Reporter

krussell@tribunemedia.net

DESPITE admitting the government’s first rates of taxation for number houses were “probably overly ambitious”, Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar has warned non-compliant operators behind on taxes face losing their licences.

“We will move with haste and determination to shut your illegal activities down,” he cautioned at Parliament yesterday, adding it was unfair for some operators to think they did not have to pay their taxes. 

While it is hoped this warning does not fall on deaf ears, the minister said the government is eyeing a revenue turnover of $32m to $34m from web shop taxes.

Initially, the Minnis administration hoped the tax would yield $50m, but the new lower rates of 15 percent and 17.5 percent reduced the estimate.

However, he said a winnings tax with gains of $10m to $15m is expected to bring government’s projected revenue close to its initial estimate.

Official Opposition Leader Philip “Brave” Davis criticised the Minnis administration, saying had it consulted with all stakeholders and gained proper industry knowledge, it would not have needed to bring new amendments to the House of Assembly.

The seven licenced operators run 360 locations throughout the Bahamas. They employ 2,800 people who earn $220 each week - $10 above minimal wage and equating to $33m a year, the minister said.

“Mr Speaker, when the government provided its undertaking to review and then adjust its rates with effect from January 1, 2019, two gaming houses immediately adopted the new rates and have been paying the new higher rate of tax since then,” the Freetown MP told Parliament ahead of it passing the Gaming Amendment Act 2019.

“These two gaming houses are, thankfully, the two largest gaming houses and will contribute over 70 percent of the tax the government expects to generate from gaming. The remaining five generally smaller, gaming house operators are adopting any number of legal strategies to delay their paying either the old rate of 11 percent or the new rate of 15 percent but, with the introduction of greater enforcement powers to the Gaming Board in this bill, I warn those non-compliant operators that, in order to continue to operate in the gaming industry of the Bahamas, they will have to catch up on their outstanding taxes or lose their licence to operate.”

He continued: “A number of the smaller houses have assured me that, with the passage of this new legislation and accompanying amendments to the regulations, they have every intention of catching up and so, I am optimistic of a positive outcome.

“But, to those who are operating in this market without a licence or have no intention to catch up on their back taxes, we will move with haste and determination to shut your illegal activities down. After all, Mr Speaker, it is simply not fair to all of us, both consumers and business owners, who faithfully pay our taxes every day of the year, to have persons/business owners living amongst us believing that they do not have to pay their fair share of the tax burden that we all carry.”

He also said: “With hindsight, trying to take the tax rate from 11 percent to an effective rate of 28 percent in one year was probably overly ambitious. As such, the government gave an undertaking to review the rates and ultimately decided that a more incremental approach was probably better in the long run than one big jump all at once.”

Regarding the winnings tax, Mr D’Aguilar said this aspect of the legislation may act as a deterrent to prospective players.

This tax will allow a five percent rate on winnings less than $1,000 and 7.5 percent on more than $1,000. Any winnings from online casino operations will not be taxed, he said.

“Given the aforementioned growth in the domestic gaming market of about $20m in revenues annually, governments are always mindful of trying to balance growth in gaming and protecting its citizens from the destructiveness of gambling.

“If this new winnings tax deters some of our citizens from gaming, is that really such a bad outcome? If gambling continues to grow and grow and grow, ploughing more and more money into an unproductive sector of our economy taking money away from mortgages, health care, education and the like, the governments seeks to get a greater share of that revenue to fund things that help the many as opposed a past-time that is obviously enriching the few.

“Since, this will be a new tax, the amount that the government hopes to derive involves a certain amount of speculation but the gaming houses operators have estimated that it should amount to between $10m to $15m bringing us closer to the $50m we had originally hoped to derive from the gaming industry.”

He was not the only member to highlight the impact that gambling has had on families.

Financial Services, Trade and Industry and Immigration Minister Elsworth Johnson highlighted a provision in the bill that will allow relatives of players to seek an order from the court for exclusion.

The order would allow web shops to bar particular players from entering and playing should their actions prove addicting and has an effect on family life.

He urged Bahamians not to hesitate to use the provision where needed.

The Yamacraw MP also said there were too many web shops in certain areas.

The government intends to table amendments to the regulations at next week’s sitting of the House of Assembly.

Comments

Sickened 1 month ago

Okay we have now stripped naked and bent over. Now it's the criminals (sorry - numbers guys) time to pay to play.

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sealice 1 month ago

OUR GOVERNMENT HAS NEVER BEEN ABLE TO SHUT ANYTHING DOWN ...... we wish they could find their own "off" switch alot of the times.....

JUS Cus could shut da power off all the time don't mean you ga shut down no number houses bey!!!!!

That's actually a big frickin joke the numbers houses are acting as banks in the our more remote communities, the same communities our government let all the canadian banks pull out of....shut those number houses down and push the outisland communities further behind the times....

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shonkai 1 month ago

Trying to do the math. 15% revenue tax gives $34M, so let's say $225M revenue for the number bosses. 5% winnings tax gives $15M, so $300M paid out by the number bosses. Where am I going wrong here, or are these just Bahamas's leading philanthropists, giving away $75M every year?

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Well_mudda_take_sic 1 month ago

Dirk Simmons is laughing because he knows that the 'other' set of books, i.e. the real books, he keeps for Sebas shows Lucky Charm's annual "take" alone (without considering the "take" of the other web shop bosses) is well over $200 million each year.

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TalRussell 1 month ago

Comrade Dionisio James was such charismatic and a wonderful red shirts candidate to 2389 Montagueians. The better choice good man's, once thought possess star prime ministerial quality. His family and business background a good match Montagueians who deeply dreamed he would become an evangelical collector ALL due taxes from ALL colony's Out islanders, corporations and residents - to tax the any and all so duly obligated PopulacesPublicPurse, yes, true...

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birdiestrachan 1 month ago

Go ahead D'Aguilar shut them down. You are the man, The Bahamian people voted for you all.

:Its the peoples time indeed

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Well_mudda_take_sic 1 month ago

Sounds like you already know that Sebas is our real PM and puppet Minnis is all show. LMAO

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birdiestrachan 1 month ago

These FNM fellows need all the taxes they can get so that they can travel, wine and dine. 9,000 dollars per month for rent . while there is so much poverty,

Should the Bahamian people elect them again they will have to have 25Cents out of every dollor instead of 12Cents. They live high

The office of the spouse gets 10 thousand just for tea they said,

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TigerB 1 month ago

Les we forget...in 2013 I, like many, dip my thumb in the blue ink and voted no to it....like many other Bahamians... tax them, them good for it.

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TalRussell 1 month ago

There's nothing in law to prevent a new governing administration not aligned to PLP or the red shirts political parties, from shutting up shop on Numbers Houses, but not before going after comrades pay up what true and real amounts never paid red cent taxes on like going back over period umpteen years which they should've been held accountable to be have been paid into PopulacesPublicPurse, prior Christie administration ever considering making them legit, lawful business operations. We could easily be talking, maybe $100 million spread collectively from among individual Numbers Houses operators in cash, or forfeited assets, yes, no... make this, Universal BahamaCARE and good riddance 12% VAT, as main 2022 general election planks and between 10 to 15 Independent candidates and they can control the colony's governing policies for next 5 years, yes, no...

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BahamaRed 4 weeks, 1 day ago

SOMEONE NEEDS TO SHUT D'Aguilar DOWN...

I WOULD LOVE TO KNOW WHO IS REALLY BENEFITTING FROM THE DUTY FREE COMMERCIAL WASHER AND DRYERS. EVERY 5 MINUTES A NEW SUPERWASH IS BEING OPENED, AND MASS RENOVATIONS ON THE ONES CURRENTLY OPERATING. BUT D'Aguilar CAN'T SEEM TO KEEP HIS EYES OFF THE NUMBER HOUSES AND THEIR MONEY. WHAT'S THE MATTER D'Aguilar YOU WANT ALL THE POOR BAHAMIAN PEOPLE MONEY FOR YOURSELF? THEY MUST NOT GAMBLE, BUT SPEND THEIR LAST DOLLAR IN ONE OF YOUR BIG BOY MACHINES.

I CAN'T STAND D'Aguilar, HE'S A HYPOCRITE AND A LOUD MOUTH (WHICH IRONICALLY HAS BEEN SILENT DURING THE WHOLE BRENT SYMONETTE DEBACLE- LESS HE BE CALLED TO THE TABLE FOR HIS OWN SKULL DUGGERY.)

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