By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
The Government is preparing to post a list of web shops that have qualified to remain open during the transition to a legalised industry, the Minister of Tourism said yesterday.
Obie Wilchcombe told Tribune Business: “The full and frank disclosures have been made by the 12 web shops. We are going to post very shortly all the various houses that will be allowed to remain open to ensure that Bahamians know who ought to be closed.
“We are going to make sure the public is aware because the police are going to to be carrying out their responsibilities.”
Mr Wilchcombe added: “Right now we are moving to the next phase, which will be the taxes that are due by January, and when that is done then we will move to the next one, which will be the request for proposals (RFPs).
“We are making some discoveries and we are continuing our audits, and before we talk about the numbers that have been revealed in full and frank discourse, we want to make sure the numbers are correct.
“We are pleased with the performance of the web shop owners. They have been more than professional. They have come and paid their taxes, and given up to the agreed position we took when we expressed the possibility of them becoming legal.”
Mr Wilchcombe said the Gaming Board was still adding staff to facilitate regulation of the web shop industry. “We are still hiring a few people because we need some experts in certain areas. We are going to have all that completed in the next few days,” said Mr Wilchcombe.
He had previously said web shops which are not granted licenses to operate will have seven days to shut down once notices of closure are released.
In order to remain open during the transitional period, web shops were required to pay their tax arrears for the period July 1 to November 24, 2014, no later than December 1.
Operators were then given until December 8 to lodge sworn affidavits with the secretary of the Gaming Board, in which they disclosed whether they wish to operate their businesses during the transitional period.
Only companies that are 100 per cent owned by Bahamian citizens, and who reside in the Bahamas, will qualify for licensing as a gaming house operator.
The closing date for purchasing an RFP will be January 9, 2015. The deadline for submitting applications for gaming house operator and gaming house premises licenses will be February 20, 2015.
“The revenue that we are getting is going to be meaningful to the country as we move forward to strengthening the economy of the country,” said Mr Wilchcombe.