Pineridge MP Frederick McAlpine said yesterday that while some Bahamians find gambling “morally reprehensible”, the increased taxes being levied on gaming houses in The Bahamas is “mercenary, unconscionable and obviously discriminatory”.
“Which one of us in this place with a legal business would want to give the government $50 million if you made $100 million, like seriously?” asked McAlpine, a reverend of the gospel.
“Government should not be willing to impose a sin tax on this industry while other vice-related activities go unchecked.
“I recommended that this proposal also should be revisited on the grounds of fairness and equity.
“Conversely, the government, via the Gaming Board, needs to quickly move to ensure that web shops are properly regulated and that the prerequisite ‘know your customer’ (KYC) procedures that they are required to follow, are complied with.
“It will remove any speck of doubt from the minds of international regulators, regarding The Bahamas’ quest to be viewed as a clean, and fully compliant jurisdiction, with zero tolerance for illegal activities.”
McAlpine is the second FNM MP to take issue with the new tax structure.
Centreville MP Reece Chipman advised Parliament on Wednesday that he does not support “discriminatory” policies as they relate to gaming.
Last week, the government announced that gaming house activities will be taxed on a sliding scale of rates applied to taxable revenue.
For instance, gaming houses that make up to $20 million will be taxed at a rate of 20 percent.
Meanwhile, gaming houses bringing in more than $100 million will be taxed at 50 percent.
The Bahamas Gaming Operators Association (BGOA) claimed the gaming houses are being targeted for racial reasons and said gaming house operators are being singled out because many of them are young, black and run efficient and profitable businesses.
Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest said on Wednesday the government’s proposed increase in taxes for gaming houses has nothing to do with “racism, discrimination, any personal vendetta” or intent to put gaming operators out of business.
He said the increase has to do with “equity”.
Turnquest said that compared to gaming taxes around the world, the proposed sliding scale tax for Bahamian gaming operators is “incredibly low”.
He said the increased taxes will be “fair” to the gaming operators, the players and the state.
But FML Group of Companies CEO Craig Flowers said the increased tax is a “death warrant” for the industry.
In a document called “Domestic Gaming Overview”, the government said 70 percent of operators generated under $20 million in 2017; 14 percent of operators generated between $20 million and $40 million; and another 14 percent of operators had taxable revenue exceeding $100 million.
It said only the portion over $100 million will be taxed at 50 percent, while the revenue below this will be taxed based on the tiers.