BY NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
THE Bahamas should exploit the gambling industry “to the max” and permit other forms of gaming beyond the web shop industry, a local businessman said yesterday, suggesting this could generate up to $500 million annually.
Ethric Bowe said many Bahamians were already fully into gambling, arguing that the industry should not be regularised to benefit a select few.
“We don’t need to set up a situation where five people and their families benefit from it. We need to set this up where the maximum amount of people can benefit, where someone could take $10,000 and start a small gambling operation if they wanted and pay different taxes based off turnover,” Mr Bowe argued.
“We need to develop the gambling industry. We should let people gamble at different things, but it has to be regulated so that the players are not cheated. I don’t see why we can’t get $0.25 cents off every dollar that comes across the table.
“I have been told that the Government can get $150-$200 million from what exists now, but if we expand and develop gambling, we could be talking about $500 million or more and that would wipe out our need for VAT.”
Last week, tourism minister Obie Wilchcombe, who has responsibility for gaming, indicated that he plans to bring legislation to regularise web shops to Parliament.
Mr Wilchcombe said he hopes the legislation will be effective from July 1. Despite a national referendum on web shop gaming in January 2013 resulting in a majority vote against such a move, the debate over the web shop sector has waged on.
“Anything, and that includes gambling that anyone else can do in the Bahamas, we should be able to do. We should be able to own banks and have US dollar accounts, for example. We need to make Bahamians full participants in the Bahamas,” said Mr Bowe.