Bahamas govt modifies position on gaming industry
NASSAU, Bahamas (CMC) – The Bahamas government says it is “unable to ignore” the nuances that came to light when the island held a referendum on gaming in 2013 as it announced measures to modify its position on regulating the gaming industry.
Prime Minister Perry Christie said as a result, his administration has decided to proceed with the regularisation of the industry despite the results of the referendum.
“My position and that of my government on the regularisation of web shop gaming has evolved as a result of certain realities which have emerged,” he told legislators.
“While I originally took the position to abide by the outcome of the referendum on this issue, there are certain realities which have come to light following the referendum which I cannot as Prime Minister ignore,”said Christie.
Some of these issues include the gaming industry’s current practice of acting as bankers and hiring bank employees for this purpose; concerns raised by the Governor of the Central Bank of possible ‘violations of the laws’ of the country and the possibility of money laundering and other dealings in violation of the country’s international obligations, which could have severe consequences for The Bahamas vital financial services industry.
Christie said that he held discussions with various stakeholders including bankers, advisors, Cabinet colleagues and others to ensure that the government was on the right track with its decision.
“As a result of these consultations and in order to preserve and protect the national interest. I took the decision that despite the outcome of the referendum, the right thing to do in the circumstances is to regulate web shop gaming.”
Christie said the government would proceed with the debate of a comprehensive Gaming Bill designed to update casino gaming legislation in order to bring it in line with competing jurisdictions.
He said that, at the same time, further amendments to the Gaming bill will be proposed with respect to casino gaming and the regularisation and licensing of gaming in web shops.
“Provision will be made in the Gaming Bill and in the elaborate regulations thereunder, for a regularisation process in relation to current web shop operators, as well as for appropriate transitional provisions, in conformity with international best practices and in full compliance with the prevailing anti-money laundering and counter terrorist financing requirements.”
He said that consultation, led by the Attorney General, is taking place with the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to ensure legislation and procedures will be in compliance with FATF guidelines to ensure acceptance by banks of proceeds from legalised and regulated casinos and web shop operators.
Christie noted that there will be a fixed number of web shop operator licences as well as web shop premises. He said that licences will be granted based on the criteria outlined in a Request For Proposal, containing appropriate minimum criteria for the licensing of web shops.
“The Bill and Regulations will provide for applicable features of a successful, responsible gaming strategy including public education, protection and treatment of gambling addicts, “ said Christie, adding that in addition to charges, fees and taxes which will be applied to web shop gaming operators, provisions will also be made for contributions to charitable and social causes.