Bethel: No intention of taxing visitors’ casino winnings

Bethel: No intention of taxing visitors’ casino winnings
Attorney General Carl Bethel. (FI:E PHOTO)

Gaming amendments passed in the Senate

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Attorney General Carl Bethel said yesterday that the government will not tax visitors on their casino winnings because they already pay enough in taxes.

He made the statement during contribution to debate on amendments to the Gaming Bill during the morning sitting of the Senate.

“The tourists paying room tax, they are paying to travel to The Bahamas,” Bethel said.

“They pay to occupy a hotel and so with their presence and with their consumption, they are providing employment to thousands of Bahamians who would not have it, and so there is a balance — there is a tradeoff.

According to Bethel, the government will consider removing the five per cent patron tax on numbers bets below $1,000 ahead of the next budget.

Last May, the government announced a sliding scale tax on gaming houses taxable revenue and a five per cent stamp tax on deposits.

Following pushback from gaming operators, who labelled the new tax regime as unequitable and unfair, the government rolled out an alternative taxing structure, which would see gaming houses net taxable revenue from $0 to $24 million taxed a rate of 15 percent, and those with net taxable revenue over $24 million taxed at a rate of 17.5 percent.

A five per cent tax on winnings up to $1,000 and a 7.5 per cent tax on winnings over $1,000 was also agreed, according to the government.

Senator Fred Mitchell said it was not fair for Bahamians to be taxed up 7.5 per cent on their winnings when visitors pay nothing on their casino winnings.

He called on the government to reconsider taxing numbers patrons’ winnings under $1,000.

“I wonder if the government would consider taking the five per cent off of the winnings below $1,000 and you leave small winnings alone,” Mitchell said.

“I argue for equity, which means tax those who go to casinos in Baha Mar and Atlantis. So, Bahamians get taxed for winning, but those who gamble here, who don’t live here, they don’t get taxed.”

The Senate passed the amendments to the Gaming Act yesterday.

But Bethel noted that the government could adjust the rate at any time in accordance with country’s economic needs.

“It can go from 17.5 per cent to 20 per cent or more, or drop to 15 per cent or less,” he said.

“The point is there is flexibility in the bill.”

Mitchell cautioned the government against the move.

Bethel also revealed there is one web shop operating in contravention of the law.

He cautioned the owner to seek to legalize the business or the Gaming Board will shut its operations down.

While the attorney general did not name the web shop, Bet Vegas, which failed to obtained a conditional gaming house operator license when it applied in 2015, pursued legal proceedings to keep its doors open.