Opposition leader Philip “Brave” Davis called the Minnis-led administration’s announcement to tax gaming operators up to 50 per cent “disappointing” and cried shame on the fact that government has chosen to “ruin” a huge chunk of the country’s growing industry, due to its “incompetence”.
“What could be the possible rationale for the 350 per cent tax hike on web shops other than to drag them out of business and to place more than 3,000 Bahamian jobs at risk,” Davis slammed.
“They will very well decide to return to the underground economy, which takes the sector back to the undesirable prerequisite era.
“The 50 per cent tax is an incentive for a new entrance to the informal gaming industry.”
Davis also opined that smaller gaming operators may “fall away” due to the increase in tax.
“The Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) government worked hard and long to regularize this industry and to make it compliant with the requirements of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), and the United States (U.S.) State Department, to ensure that we preserved our financial services industry,” he said.
“I point out that the ‘unregulated’ gaming industry was mentioned in the U.S. State Department’s annual report on The Bahamas, for its vulnerability to the proceeds from crime.
“If you drive the industry into the ground again, we can possibly be viewed with the cautious eyes we had before.”
The opposition leader said Family Islanders also fall victim to the government’s tax hike in a five per cent increase for deposits and withdrawals, as many residents use gaming houses to receive funds from family and friends from other islands, as other commercial banks have closed shop.
“There’s a five per cent tax on your money, on deposits and withdrawals, as Family islanders rely on these accounts,” he said.
Shortly after the announcement, gaming operators called the tax hike “unconstitutional”, “irrational”, and “discriminative”.
Davis further pointed out that when the former administration implemented a 7.5 per cent value-added tax (VAT) in 2015, it raised the minimum wage up to 40 per cent and focused on creating jobs as a way to balance out a booming economy.