Finance Minister K. Peter Turnquest must not capitulate to the Bahamas Gaming House Operators Association (BGHOA) and its attorney, Alfred Sears, in its demands for the Free National Movement (FNM) administration to abandon its plan to exponentially increase taxes on web shops.
Many observant Bahamians have chosen to view the introduction of this sliding scale tax system within the gaming industry as a retroactive measure that would seek to claw back millions that were funneled out of impoverished Family Islands and the inner-city communities of Nassau by web shops over the decades. This money could be used to build new schools, hospitals, homeless shelters and much-needed infrastructure throughout the country – something state lotteries do in the U.S.
The BGHOA attorney’s threatening ultimatum to the FNM probably fell on deaf ears. These people were able to circumvent the 2013 referendum results via the courts. Therefore the threat to litigate is not surprising. Based on the results of the said referendum, the BGHOA shouldn’t even be in existence today.
The Minnis administration is obviously not beholden to these people like the previous administration. That government went against the vote of an overwhelming majority of referendum participants who numbered in the thousands in order to appease a handful of web shop owners. Rather than pander to about seven or eight persons, the Minnis administration has chosen to take a utilitarian approach to web shop gaming. This move by Turnquest and co. will be for the benefit of the majority, as opposed to the move by the Christie administration, which was for the benefit of a few individuals.
Seeing that the litigation threat did not scare the Minnis administration, the BGHOA is now sounding the “Matilda alarm” over the possible loss of some 2,000 jobs in the gaming industry. But look at the demographic of those typically employed by this industry: They are usually young women and middle-age men. The former are mostly tellers and cashiers, while the latter are mostly security officers or bookies. At the risk of appearing condescending, The Bahamas can survive the loss of these 2,000 low-paying entry-level jobs. These cashiers and security officers are earning minimum wage while their employers are raking in hundreds of millions. The world won’t come to an end for The Bahamas when this proposed tax is implemented.
– Kevin Evans