Govt prepared to sue gaming house operators
Attorney General Carl Bethel said the government is prepared to take gaming house operators to court over unpaid taxes as the government faces a shortfall in gaming tax revenue.
The government has collected roughly $18.2 million of its $50 million target for gaming tax revenue in the 2018/2019 fiscal year.
Speaking with The Nassau Guardian, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest said, “It’s unlikely that we’re going to make up the full difference. However, as you are aware, there has been a negotiated settlement. We expect that the gaming houses will live up to that negotiated agreement and they will bring their accounts current before the end of the fiscal year.
“If they don’t, certainly it will be an outstanding amount and we intend to collect what is due.”
When pressed on how the government intends to collect the taxes, Turnquest said, “Well the courts are available for this kind of disagreement. As you know, several of the operators have a question or a disagreement with what has been agreed with the majority and, again, the courts will decide.”
Asked if the government was prepared to take the gaming operators to court, Bethel said, “There’s no question to that.”
He added: “We are fully prepared to go to court if we have to.”
Bethel said he has met with draftspersons to discuss ways of improving the enforcement of laws regarding gaming taxes, noting that the government will “take legal steps in the coming weeks to enforce the laws in The Bahamas and the law that requires them to pay the 11 percent”.
Earlier this month, Turnquest revealed that the government was experiencing “a shortfall” in gaming tax collections with only $8.4 million received so far this year.
During the budget communication last May, the government announced a sliding scale tax on gaming house revenues and a five percent stamp tax on deposits.
However, after widespread backlash from gaming operators who claimed that the new taxes would be detrimental to their businesses, and a lawsuit, the government agreed to delay the enforcement of those taxes.
In February, the government announced that it had reached an agreement with gaming house operators which would result in a collection of $35 million annually from the sliding scale tax on net taxable revenue and $15 million from a tax on winnings as a result of lottery bets.
Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar has said that gaming house operators are paying two months’ worth of taxes each month in order to catch up with back taxes by the end of the fiscal year.
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