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Amendment seeks to address concerns over gaming tax

Amendment seeks to address concerns over gaming tax

Carl Bethel.

Attorney General Carl Bethel said yesterday the government will impose the sliding scale tax on gaming house operators “in short order”.

Bethel made the comment in the Senate after he tabled the Gaming House Operator (Amendment Number 2) Regulations, 2018.

The amendment changes a phrase included in the original amendment

regulations tabled during the budget debate in June.

The original document stated, “Subject to paragraph 2, the gaming taxes payable under section 64 of the act by the holder of a gaming house operator license shall be based on the revenue collected as follows: $0 to $20 million, 20 percent; $20 million and $1 to $40 million, 25 percent; $40 million and $1 to $60 million, 30 percent; $60 million and $1 to $80 million, 35 percent; $80 million and $1 to $100 million, 40 percent and $100 million and $1 and over, 50 percent.”

The amendment tabled yesterday changes the words “on the revenue collected” to “all taxable revenue”.

“This is the first step in addressing the concerns of the gaming house operators that provoked their legal action,” Bethel said.

“The draftspersons in these tax bills receive their instructions direct from the Ministry of Finance during the budget phase and evidently during that phase they settled for a frame of wording, revenue collected, which is not consistent with the way in which revenue is described in the Gaming Act.

“This corrects it by merely using the word elsewhere used in the act and defined in the act. So, it will now refer to all taxable revenue.

“In the Gaming Act, taxable revenue is specifically defined as gross revenue received by the gaming house operators, minus the per centum of every dollar that is mandated to be returned to players through fixing of the odds – it is mandated that 70 cents are returned to the gambling public.

“So out of every dollar gambled, 70 cents has to go back to someone or other in the pool of persons who are gambling.

“So that leaves 30 cents on the dollar as being the taxable revenue.

“This amendment now captures that and we are in a position for, certainly this aspect of the disputed tax, to come into force in short order.”

In August, web shop operators filed an application in the Supreme Court seeking leave for judicial review of the government’s stamp tax on gaming patrons and the sliding scale gaming tax. They also sought an injunction against the taxes.

Following the application, the government agreed not to impose the taxes but rather seek to have further discussions with gaming house operators in a bid to iron out areas in dispute.

Attorney Wayne Munroe, who represents three gaming operators, said yesterday that discussions are ongoing.

On Tuesday, Bethel said if the government and gaming house operators don’t reach an agreement by the end of the week, they would have to fight it out in court.

Munroe said that is “unreasonable”.

He said the attorney general’s office has asked to meet with him and attorney Alfred Sears, who represents Island Luck CEO Sebas Bastian, either today or tomorrow.

Munroe said he will be unable to meet today and noted that Sears is scheduled to leave the country tomorrow.

“If they have this magic cut off of this week then it would appear that we… will unlikely be able to resolve matters,” Munroe said.

“I don’t think that is the correct way to go about things.”

When asked if the parties have made any headway since August, Munroe said, “We write them. We request discussions.

“They have not to this day agreed to sit and talk to us.”

As noted earlier, the government announced a sliding scale tax on gaming house revenues.

The previous gaming tax was 11 percent of gaming house revenues.

The government also announced that it would tax gaming patrons through a five percent stamp tax applied on deposits and any non-online games or digital sales.

The patron tax was delayed several times.

Web shop operators have labeled the taxes discriminatory, unfair and wrong.

Gaming operators said the increase in taxes would cause them to lay off employees and shut down locations.