If the objective is job creation and growth of our economy, then legalisation of webshop gaming must happen now. We simply cannot countenance the loss of 200 jobs, for instance, if a larger web shop is closed come July 1. This is unacceptable. All accountants and economists are familiar with the multiplier concept in that the impact of webshop activity in the economy is expanded to so many entities that rely on their output. These include security firms, cleaning companies utilities and others.
This is a chance now to empower Bahamians. There is no significant growth industry right now.
Indeed, attorney Alfred Sears wrote recently that our model would rather give and retain gambling rights for foreign investors, who then employ Bahamians, than give rights to Bahamian owners for an even greater impact on our economy.
We need to grow and regulate the industry in a responsible manner.
In order to cause proper audits of, and accounting by, web shops we need to legalise them. This will produce useful financial information and restore public confidence in the system. Government will have the neccessary information to make well-informed decisions. Examples of data Government could have if the industry is legalised:
Gambling payout percentage
Number of wagers per day. Per week.
Number of store locations
Business license revenues
Ownership and related entities. Entities owned by these web shops.
It is interesting that some web shop owners are talking about launching share offerings of their businesses. Again, while we understand this approach, which gets public buy-in, we are concerned about this, There needs to be regulation of this so that potential investors have access to audited financial information, as well as full disclosure of ownership and other key information.
It is unfair and uneven for web shops to operate and pay Business License fees on only their web revenue. Legitimate businesses have to pay license fees on their full revenue. This is an uneven playing ground and an unfair advantage to web shops. Legalisation would address this.
There is anecdotal evidence that web shops are providing loans, often to desperate entities and persons at onerous rates. There is no regulation of these lending practices. With legalisation, and proper audits and filing, the Government would be able to monitor these activities.
An obvious side effect of the murkiness around the industry is the need to turn winnings into good money. The house and the gambler both. However, the house is more impacted due to the significant monies collected every day.
Legalisation would require the house to ask for Know Your Customer information on account holders. Currently there is no requirement.
We do not agree with alledgedly reserving the licenses for a select group of three web shops. We support giving the top five shops a say on key aspects of the industry regulations and reviewing the other shops.
There must be public consultation, as there would be grave concern about alleged closed meetings with certain webshop owners. We must ensure the legislation is fair and the regulatory aspects are in line with international practices.
We believe all webshop owners and entities, including the top five, must demonstrate they are up to date with all government taxes and other obligations. This to be considered for participation.
They must also agree to put aside monies for activities that will address the often unspoken, but very real, side of gambling, namely gambling addiction. We are aware that web shops contribute now to various charitable causes, but the need for an organised response to gambling addiction is mandatory.
We believe the top five shops are;
A Sure win
Everybody Wins (FML)