Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Peter Turnquest, has been misinformed regarding the technicalities of the gaming industry in The Bahamas. This was evident as the Minister, on Guardian Talk Radio’s Morning Blend, compared the Bahamian gaming market to other countries whose dynamics are vastly different.
According to the findings of an independent international gaming and tax expert, the proposed tax structure given by the current administration on the national gaming industry has vast implications on the Bahamian economy, most notably, threatening the livelihood of approximately 2,000-plus Bahamians employed within the industry. It will also likely expand the existing unregulated black market.
On Morning Blend, Minister Turnquest suggested that the proposed “tier system” tax structure is “well ahead” of similar taxes imposed in other countries. He then compared the proposed taxation to those imposed in Florida, the United Kingdom and other Caribbean countries.
“In the first tier most operators will only see a 20% tax rate,” he said, adding, “but, you look at Monaco (sic) that’s at 39%, plus a 35% flat gaming tax, plus 1.6% for special fund and 2.4% for government incentives. Then you have Florida. Florida has a 78% (in) gaming tax. Barbados costs 17.5% plus 25% in corporate income tax. The UK takes 78%. Jamaica takes 20% plus 5% tax in ticket sales, plus 20% on all lottery winnings over $150.”
We are confused by the Ministers’ examples given that the jurisdictions he has listed are not comparable to our own.
We are assuming the Minister will be referring to Macao when he said Monaco, as he has referenced this jurisdiction before. Macao’s gaming industry is comprised of land-based casinos and horse racing, while the Bahamian industry is comprised of online gaming. All gaming taxes collected in Macao are from land-based casino operations, similar to Atlantis or Baha-Mar.
Florida does not authorize, manage, or regulate any online gaming in the state; and in Barbados, online/interactive gaming companies do not exist. Our taxes are in line with the 15% tax rate for online gaming in the United Kingdom. None of these industries are the fourth largest employers in their jurisdiction. The Minister is comparing apples and potatoes.
While gaming operators are not opposed to being taxed, the Minister should seek a gaming and tax expert to ensure that the most informed decisions are made and everyday Bahamians don’t suffer due to misinformed calculations and wrongful comparisons.
How can the Minister express concern for the gaming culture in the Family Islands, claiming that revenue is “being sucked out of their community” and transferred to the capital, without sharing any empirical evidence? Why isn’t this same concern shared for the over 2,000 Bahamians employed by gaming operators nationwide?
If the government is going to make such fundamental structural changes to this or any other industry, then there is a legitimate expectation that they will use only empirical data from independent experts and that these changes are made through a proper consultative and collaborative process.