By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
THE web shop industry is arguing that the sector’s “development of technology and business methods” have taken it outside the regulatory purview of the Lotteries & Gaming Act.
Percy’s Web Cafe, Island Luck, the FML Group of Companies, Chances Internet Services, WhatFall and Asue Draw are alleging that their Internet, technology-based businesses are “outside the behaviour defined in and covered by” the Act.
According to an affidavit filed in the Supreme Court on behalf of the web shops by their attorneys, Munroe & Associates, the six companies operate more than 100 web shops in Abaco, Andros, Bimini, Cat Island, Eleuthera, Exuma, Inagua, Long Island, Grand Bahama and New Providence.
The affidavit alleges that the plaintiffs were licensed by the Business License Division of the Ministry of Finance, and were fully compliant with the Act. And, since they started operating, there had been no attempt by the Government to close down the/industry.
The documents alleged that apart from WhatFall , the other five web shop operatoers all attended meetings held by the then-Minster of Finance, former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham, in 2010.
They provided the Ministry with information on the activities of the web shop businesses, and it carried out site visits and inspections at their businesses. Their licenses were all renewed the following year according to the affidavit.
“Based on (a) the issue of the licenses of the plaintiffs following the meeting with the officials from the MInistry of Finance, and (b) the terms of the Business License Act, there is a legitimate expectation by the plaintiffs that their business operations would not be interfered with by the Government,” the affidavit stated.
Following the January 28 poll, which saw the majority of voters reject the regulation and taxation of web shop gaming in the Bahamas, Prime Minister Perry Christie issued a statement ordering web shop owners and operators to immediately “cease and desist” from all on-line gaming and numbers activities.
They were, however, not required to close the door on their employees and those persons with whom they have lawful commercial relationships, including landlords, utility and service companies, suppliers of goods and other third-party creditors.
This prompted web shop operators to seek an injunction from the Supreme Court. An injunction was granted to prevent the Government, police, and Attorney General from shutting down web shops until the main issues are litigated.