Gamers claims of racism laughable, says finance minister

Gamers claims of racism laughable, says finance minister
Deputy Prime and Minister of Finance, Peter Turnquest.

When the government cracked the whip on the gaming industry Wednesday, the blow not only knocked the wind out of gaming operators, but it also left them feeling slighted, according to the head of the association representing gaming owners.

The gaming community was left in shock when government introduced sweeping taxes to be levied on their annual earnings.

Gershan Major, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Bahamas Gaming Operators Association (BGOA) told Eyewitness News, that gaming operators feel racially discriminated.

“This is nothing more than economic profiling, and its most unfortunate,” lamented Major.

“It’s most unfortunate in 2018 in a modern day Bahamas.”

Eyewitness News questioned Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest on the government’s reasoning behind the tax crackdown on gaming operators and their accusations that government was seeking to marginalize successful black Bahamian businessmen.

Turnquest said he found the accusation “laughable”.

“The last time I looked in the mirror, I’m a black man. So I don’t know how I would racially profile my own people,” he said while chuckling.

Turnquest said gaming operators were allowed to run rampant for many years without regulation.

He said “Bahamians voted no” against the legalization of gaming houses, yet, gaming houses were still legalized.

“The Bahamian people voted in a particular way in respect to this industry, nonetheless it was allowed to proceed. It was allowed to proceed in a way that the Bahamian people were given the short end of the stick,” Turnquest noted.

The government’s new tax regime on the gaming industry takes effect July 1.

“To date the wealth has been amassed and accumulating in the hands of a few amount of people. We believe that given the affects that gambling has had on our society, in particular our Family Islands, that it is only fair that they pay their fair share and contribute to the social well-being of The Bahamas as much as Bahamians have empowered them,” he said.

When compared to gaming industries within the region, Turnquest said gaming operators in The Bahamas are lucky to only face taxes capped at 50 per cent on earnings.

“In other regions the amount of tax that is generated from the gaming industry is as much as 80 per cent,” he shared.

“We have tried to strike a balance to be fair to them and be fair to the Bahamian people.”

Gaming operators that make up to $20 million will be taxed at 20 per cent.

Gaming houses which rake in $20 to $40 million dollars will pay taxes at 25 per cent.

Those which make $40 to $60 million will pay 30 per cent in taxes while operators which earn $60 to $80 million will be taxed at 45 per cent.

Top tier money makers who earn $80 to $100 million will pay 40 per cent in taxes while gaming operators who make 100 million will pay a whopping 50 per cent on their earnings.