D’Aguilar: National lottery still being explored

Minister of Tourism and Aviation, Dionisio D'Aguilar.

Debate begins today on amendments to gaming legislation

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — As the government seeks to bring increased regulations on the gaming sector in The Bahamas, Minister of Tourism Dionisio D’Aguilar said yesterday the government continues to explore a national lottery.

D’Aguilar, who has ministerial responsibility for gaming, spoke to the media outside the House of Assembly.

While initially reluctant to share his views on the implementation of a national lottery, D’Aguilar noted that among the options being considered is a possible public private partnership with existing gaming operators.

“If you want to maximize your revenue from gaming there are many ways that can take [place], and a national lottery is one,” the minister said.

“What plays in my mind is the question, ‘Who will run the lottery?’

“I personally do not think that government should be the one running the lottery.

“We can contract a company to do that. Certainly, government should not be in the mechanics of running a lottery.”

Of the possible PPP, the minister continued, “That’s certainly something that we are seriously considering.

“Obviously the gaming operators offer a number of games of chance and we tax them all at the same rate, and maybe we need to look at those that look more like a lottery and tax them at a different rate.

“These are all options that we are considering.”

Parliamentarians will begin debate today on a bill for an act to amend the Gaming Act, which was tabled in the House yesterday morning.

Of the bill, the minister said it is expected to introduce stricter enforcement for gaming house operators, according D’Aguilar.

After nearly a year of negotiations between the government and gaming operators, D’Aguilar said last month that the government is finally ready to debate and pass legislation that would establish a sliding tax scale on net taxable revenue of the gaming houses.

The new tax regime was met with strong pushback from gaming operators.

Both sides were at odds for months as gaming operators felt the amended taxes were unfair.

The government announced in February, however, that it reached an agreement with operators which would result in it collecting $35 million annually from the new sliding scale tax on net taxable revenue, and $15 million from a tax on winnings from lottery bets.

To date, four of seven gaming operators have complied with the new regime, which also requires gaming operators to tax patron winnings — five percent on winnings up to 1,000, and 7.5 percent on winnings above that amount.

Government has indicated that it intends to pursue non-compliant gaming operators.