D’Aguilar: A case could be made for gaming operators to run natl. lottery

D’Aguilar: A case could be made for gaming operators to run natl. lottery
Minister of Tourism, Dionisio D'Aguilar.

Lottery not on the govt’s agenda at current

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — A “profound” case could be made for gaming house operators to establish a national lottery on behalf of the government, according to Minister of Tourism and Aviation Dionisio D’Aguilar, who has ministerial responsibility for gaming.

Although D’Aguilar, said a national lottery is not on the government’s agenda at this time, the minister told reporters that if it was, he believes the government should not be responsible for it — a point he made during the 2019/2020 budget debate in Parliament.

“I do not personally believe that government should run a lottery because of our record of running things in general, so we have not proceeded on that matter and the government is not further along in determining what it is going to do,” D’Aguilar said outside the Churchill Building.

“If we did decide to have a national lottery, we do have Bahamians involved in the gaming sector.

“Would they not be in the best position to run a lottery on our behalf. They have the distribution, they have the knowledge.

“I’m sure a very profound case could be made for that.”

The minister also said it could be argued that a lottery already exists in the nation.

“We can go on the television and we see people drawing numbers every two hours I’m told,” he said.

“So, one has to ask why would you want to introduce a lottery.

“The government legalized gaming to generate tax revenue, so you can still have the same people operate it, but change the tax structure. There are many ways to skin this cat.”

As public debate continues on the issue of a national lottery, D’Aguilar said the government has not received further advice from the Gaming Board on how it should proceed.

“This is just conjecture at this point,” D’Aguilar noted.

After nearly a year of negotiations between the government and gaming operators, Parliament passed amendments to the Gaming Act nearly two weeks ago that establishes a sliding tax scale on net taxable revenue of the gaming houses.

Amendments to the Gaming Act expand the definition of a “numbers game”, which has raised questions about whether the government was paving the way for a national lottery.

Any single combination of series of numbers, symbols or letters as may be approved by the board may be wagered upon by a plater at odds which are fixed at the time of conclusion of the waver, D’Aguilair announced during debate on the amendments on July 18.

A national lottery and the sliding scale of tax have been subject to heated public debate.

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.