A former tourism minister has accused the Bahamas government of victimizing gaming operators as it urged it to consider all the industry has undergone to date, inclusive of the millions of dollars the operators were made to pay in back taxes. “I believe they have been victimized, and they have been asking to be heard,” said former tourism minister, Obie Wilchcombe.
Earlier this year, Finance Minister Peter Turnquest announced a sliding-scale tax system on gaming house revenues and a five per cent stamp tax on gaming patrons.
The taxes were set to go into effect on July 1, but the move was delayed to give gaming operators time to re-adjust.
Operators file lawsuit
Last week, the gaming operators filed a lawsuit seeking leave for a judicial review and a stay on gaming taxes, claiming that the actions of the Hubert Minnis government were “unfair, irrational and oppressive.”
The government agreed, pending a court hearing on October 5, not to implement the stamp tax and not to enforce the sliding-scale tax.
Attorney General Carl Bethel said the decision is a courtesy to domestic gaming operators and to the court.
Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar said the operators have enjoyed many years of “feast, and if you must suffer through one year of famine in order for us to get to that sweet pot of the perfect level of taxation, we will remember any good deed that you do.”
But Wilchcombe told reporters ““I did not like the comments being made about their wealth. He said that the game operators “whether you like it or not…have paid their dues; we made them paid their dues, those who couldn’t. And people are forgetting, many, many more who were in the business.”