Leading gaming operator Sebas Bastian broke his silence on the government’s proposed gaming tax hike, which was revealed during the 2018-2019 Budget Communication nearly two weeks ago.
Addressing a packed room at the second round of OWN Bahamas’ OWN Talks Series, Bastian charged that the pending scaling tax on the industry’s earnings is a direct attempt by the government to keep the economic pie of the country in the hands of a select few.
“The truth is, 99 percent of the wealth in The Bahamas is controlled by less than one per cent of the people,” Bastian said during the Island Luck sponsored event to promote entrepreneurship
“As bad as they talk about gaming, and as much as they try to muddy the water, the truth is gaming was the only industry they left for us.”
Bastian reasoned that that gaming was allowed to thrive in an unregulated environment, leaving the traditional business to those who are familiar by name.
“The Sunshine this, the Bay St Boys that and the Eastern Road crew, they’ve carved up the entire economic pie for themselves, leaving nothing but crumbs for us,” Bastian argued.
“For almost 100 years, they’ve been the price makers and we have been the prices takers.”
He shared with attendees a letter he wrote to former Prime Minister Perry Christie, the day he was awarded his gaming license.
He thanked Christie for having the political will to regulate this industry, and the vision in identifying the need to create a new generation of economic leaders.
Now, it would appear as if the dynamics have changed.
“Can you imagine, you living in a country where you’re encouraged to be an entrepreneur, but envied for being innovative and targeted for being successful?” Bastian questioned.
As the threat of the tax looms, the Bahamas Gaming Operators Association (BGOA) announced that it is preparing to sue the government, citing discrimination over the new tax.
The BGOA said jobs losses as a result of the tax, is imminent and will force the closure of dozens of gaming houses. The association has also warned that an aggressive black market will emerge as a result of the tax.
Meanwhile, the government has refused to budge on the tax, despite calls from the BGOA for further consultation. Attorney General Carl Bethel has also promised to dismantle any unregulated gaming operation.