House to get amended Gaming Bill today
An amended Gaming Bill is expected to be tabled in Parliament today and would see stricter enforcement for gaming house operators, Attorney General Carl Bethel said yesterday.
“As of this morning, I received a draft of the legislation,” said Bethel, following the swearing in ceremony for newly appointed Minister of Financial Services, Trade and Industry and Immigration Elsworth Johnson.
“It will be an amendment to the Gaming Act and also some regulations that will be tabled, if Cabinet approves, tomorrow in the House of Assembly which will bring in the new structure.
“There were some directions that I had to give in terms of the drafts, to clean up some areas and to make sure it clearly stated what we intended and those instructions have been given.
“So I anticipate that by time as Cabinet convenes today, I will have the gaming amendment bill, which will greatly increase the powers of the Gaming Board to enforce not only against licensed operators who may infringe but against unlicensed operators.
“It would create a whole new investigating agency of the Gaming Board with the powers of peace officer, subject to court ordered warrants and search warrants, etc.
“So it’s a very farsighted legislation and then there will be regulations as well that will capture the agreed legal taxation framework for the gaming industry.”
Bethel said Cabinet has instructions and authority from Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis to table the regulations and bring them into force and also to table the Gaming Bill and pass it on Thursday.
He noted that while Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar, who has responsibility for gaming, is out of the country, there is an acting minister who will sign the regulations on his instructions.
Last May, the government announced a sliding scale tax on gaming house revenues and a five percent stamp tax on deposits.
Legal action from gaming operators forced the government to abandon this tax structure.
The government and gaming house operators have since agreed to a new scale, which will tax gaming houses with net taxable revenue from $0 to $24 million at a rate of 15 percent, and those with net taxable revenue over $24 million at a rate of 17.5 percent.
Additionally, a five percent tax on winnings up to $1,000 and a 7.5 percent tax on winnings over $1,000 will be implemented.
Speaking to the negotiation process since the government announced the tax, Bethel said, “This has been a very dynamic process. It has, in a sense, involved all of the gaming house operators except for one or two, who for their own reasons, really to do with their own issues, didn’t want to be at the table.
“But the law is the law and once the regulations are passed, it’ll apply to all.”
The government expects to collect $50 million from gaming house operators this fiscal year.
Education: Vrije Universiteit Brussel (University of Brussels), MA in Mass Communications