AG fires back at Sears

NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Attorney General Carl Bethel on Monday went into defence mode, after attorney Alfred Sears, QC, claimed that the government was practising “ring fencing” and was not offering web shop operators the same level playing field that was being offered to international casinos.

Sears, via a press release issued on Sunday, called on government to level the playing field and eliminate the “ring-fencing” in the gaming sector.

Sears is the attorney for Playtech Systems Limited, one of seven licensed gaming house operators in the country.

He suggested that government, through its current proposals, plans to increase the tax rate on gaming house operators up to 400 per cent, but such a move, Sears said, will deepen preferential treatment and ring-fencing around casinos owned by foreign companies.

Yesterday, the attorney general took grave exception to Sears’ suggestions and sought to clear the air.

“It is very harmful for him to be making charges about ring-fencing, which patently are not ring-fencing, merely because there is a different rate of taxation which applies on different types of gaming industry,” Bethel said.

Last August, gaming house operators filed an application in the supreme court seeking leave for judicial review.

Gaming house operators also filed an injunction of government’s proposed stamp tax on its patrons and the sliding scale gaming tax.

The move prompted government to delay imposing the taxes, and instead, seek to have further discussions with gaming house operators to come to an agreement on the way forward.

While Sears has called for a level playing field for gaming house operators he also accused the government of not operating in good faith; something that Bethel said is untrue.

“We have had several meetings with them, Sears and other colleagues on this matter.

“We made a suggestion to them and we were only waiting on the answer.

“He then came with a counter proposal which was a total rejection of the suggestion that we had made.

“It purported to be a complete resolution, but it was a complete resolution on terms which he knew were objectionable,” Bethel explained.

While Sears has cried foul play on government, and has seemingly found himself having a hard time during the negotiation process, Attorney Wayne Munroe, QC,  who represents the remaining three gaming house operators in the legal battle with government, has found better luck at the negotiation table.

Munroe told Eyewitness News Online on Monday that he remains optimistic about negotiations with government.

“From where I sit, they have been taking some things on board, but whether they will take everything on board; that is a different story,” Munroe said.

He confirmed that he presented his client’s proposal to government on Monday