Former gaming minister Obie Wilchcombe is now on record saying the government has gotten it wrong with regard to its proposed tax hike for this new era of gaming.
During an appearance on Beyond the Headlines (BTH) with host Clint Watson, Wilchcombe said, pushing ahead with the move will have serious consequences.
“If you are seeking to destroy the industry, out of what I consider to be a naked form of penalization and victimization, then you take this approach,” Wilchcombe said.
He believes that what the government is proposing to do to the gaming sector with the planned tax hike will hurt not only the sector but the country’s economy and reputation.
Wilchcombe said the argument that the sector operated illegally and must now pay up is nonsense, given that they’ve already paid for those sins.
“They had to pay back taxes, millions of dollars – almost $20 million in back taxes,” he said.
“Don’t forget, we started with 15 houses. That’s how we ended up with 10 and then nine because many had to drop out. (They) couldn’t afford the back taxes.”
The Minnis administration has also used the argument that the taxes would put the industry in line with its counterparts worldwide. Wilchcombe, however, said that couldn’t be further from the truth since The Bahamas is unique when it comes to the operation of the sector based heavily on gaming houses – one he said is reputable and serves as a model for the world.
“They’re not talking about gaming houses, they are talking about casinos, yes, but our casinos are lower so are you gonna lift the casino taxes here now? Is that what you’re suggesting? That you’re gonna go 18 per cent, 19 per cent? Are you gonna go there where many casinos are?… I think they’re using that loosely,” he said.
According to the former gaming minister, good governance is creating equity in our society where everyone has a right to be a businessman – not taxing for the mere purpose of a personal view.
“I look at their taxation – what they are being taxed – and they are paying their taxes,” he lamented.
“That’s what they are supposed to pay. I’m not going to just single out anybody… because their earnings are high. No that’s not what you do. That’s not equity in a country.
“It must be fair at all times.”