NASSAU, BAHAMAS – There have been ‘zero’ anti-money laundering (AML) and combating the financing of terrorism (CFT) concerns expressed by local regulators with regards to any of the gaming operators since the industry was regulated in 2014, according to the Bahamas Gaming Operators Association (BGOA).
BGOA president Gershon Major made the assertion at a forum hosted by the Institute of Internal Auditors Bahamas Chapter under the theme: “The Risk of Online Gaming – The Impact on The Bahamas Financial Industry”.
Major said: “Within every operator’s established system there is a compliance division, there are Gaming Board inspectors some are on site almost weekly or daily. There are internal audits and external audits done. Since regulation there has not been one operator flagged and brought before FIU or others and told they are at risk.
“The audited statements go to the Gaming Board. They then share them I hope with other agencies who need to look at those and since 2014 I can tell you from where we sit and have been made privy to there have been zero concerns expressed.”
Major also pointed to a report earlier this year from the Bahamas Gaming Board, which determined gaming houses are free from the threat of money laundering or terrorist financing. The report found most gaming house players have an average account balance of five dollars and an average transaction amount of $60.
That information was released in the Group of Financial Services Regulators’ (GFSR) Bahamas 2018 AML/CFT Report, published on the website of the Central Bank of The Bahamas.
With respect to the industry, Major said the “noise in the market” did not correlate to “the price of the fish”.
“We have to change the narrative and how we tell our story,” he said.
“Far too long others have been telling the story and it’s mostly been incorrect.”
While there are inherent risks in any sector, Major described the risk associated with the local gaming industry as ‘negligible’.
He noted the gaming industry is growing ‘exponentially’ both locally and internationally.
Major said unlicensed operators, and an unregulated gaming segment, remain a concern for operators.
He said the BGOA plans to work ‘hand in hand’ with the Gaming Board to address the issue, which he said could damage the industry and this nation’s brand.
Major also noted that within an unregulated segment, persons suffering with gaming addiction will not get the help they need.
He stressed the industry operates under a standardized policy to promote responsible gaming.
That policy restricts persons under 18 from gaming or entering a gaming house, outlines a zero tolerance policy to fraudulent activity, prompt and active customer payments as well as self-imposed gaming limits.
The BGOA also provides counseling services as a prelude of a gambler’s anonymous, he said.
Major added: “We are working with Sandilands Rehabilitation Centre and have allowed for five professionals to be internationally certified in gambling disorder is is expanding that offer.
He also pointed to a June 2018 report by the Oxford Economics consultancy and commissioned by the Bahamas Gaming Operators Association (BGOA), which said that the that domestic gaming supports 3,881 jobs with an income of $101 million.
The report revealed the industry increases GDP in the Bahamas by $284 million and taxes paid directly by the industry, and generates an estimated $46 million in annual tax payments to the government.