The attorney for the Bahamas Gaming Operators Association (BGOA) said the association will proceed with legal action, as the government failed to give a response to a letter requesting a meeting for a discussion on the proposed increase in tax on their earnings, which was introduced by the government in the upcoming fiscal budget.
The BGOA labeled the tax as discriminatory and gave the government until Friday past to respond. Attorney Wayne Munroe, QC, reported to Eyewitness News yesterday, that they now plan to proceed.
The organisation has also taken issue with comments made by Financial Secretary Marlon Johnson, who appeared on (ILTV) talk show Beyond the Headlines with Clint Watson last week.
In a statement, BGOA officials said, Johnson seemed nonchalant and apathetic to the plight of gaming industry employees as he suggested that if laid off, due to tax-induced downsizing by gaming establishments, they should simply apply to be “housekeepers” and “space cleaners” at Baha-Mar.
“The government of The Bahamas continues to show little to no concern for Bahamians’ livelihood, while illustrating once again that the new tax structure for the online gaming industry has truly been a guessing game for them,” the statement read.
Despite Johnson’s assertion that the government is “always concerned with jobs,” BGOA officials said that his comments seem to suggest otherwise.
“This is the first time since announcing the unfair and targeted tax hike that the government has acknowledged the possibility of extreme job losses in the industry,” said BGOA President Gershan Major.
“If 2,000-plus Bahamians employed by the gaming industry were to lose their jobs due to an unavoidable downsizing, there is no guarantee that they would be employed by Baha Mar as housekeepers or employed at all. They, too, would have to compete with the hundreds of Bahamians already on Baha Mar’s waiting list.”
Major questioned if this was the remedy that the government is prescribing to address the ramifications of its new taxation.
“Why is the solution sending Bahamians to work for foreign entities instead of securing their jobs with Bahamian employers,” Major asked.
He also took issue with Johnson’s suggestion that after raising taxes by up to 453% on gaming houses, the industry would remain vibrant.
Major said, “He has produced no empirical evidence that the industry could bare such an extreme tax burden and there has been no meaningful consultation with the industry’s stakeholders.”
The BGOA, he said, respects and applauds the housekeepers and space cleaners who are the backbone of the Bahamian hospitality industry, but also respects and applauds the employees that are the backbone of the gaming industry. The association, he stressed, will not stop advocating to save their jobs.
“We are disheartened that Mr. Johnson has given no consideration to the highly trained corporate staff of the gaming industry. He also thought nothing of the people the industry employees in our Family of Islands. Do we expect industry employees to leave their home islands to find work in New Providence? These hard-working and capable Bahamians should not be corralled into the hospitality industry because of callous and misinformed government policies,” he said.
Major pointed out that if the government is intent on making such fundamental structural changes to this or any other industry, with the expected significant amount of job losses, it goes counter to the ILO’s definition of “decent work,” which is presently being enjoyed by approximately 3,000 Bahamian professionals in the domestic gaming industry.
“The BGOA has a legitimate expectation that the government uses only empirical data from independent gaming experts and that these changes are made through a proper consultative and a collaborative process,” he said.
“Mr. Johnson’s comments only further discredit the Government’s miscalculated, misdirected tax plan, making it more evident that this is an attack on the gaming industry to ensure its demise, which would only further hurt the economy.”