By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Chief Reporter
FREE National Movement Deputy Leader K Peter Turnquest yesterday raised concerns over the refusal of commercial banks to accept transactions from the legalised web shop gaming industry.
Mr Turnquest questioned the impact conflicting bank policies will have on the sector given that Bank of the Bahamas has agreed to engage the new industry while Canadian-owned banks and Commonwealth Bank have publicly stated they will not be accepting web shop deposits.
He also raised concerns over whether the local bank’s decision to accept transactions was influenced by the government.
“They have all declined to accept that money, all of them,” Mr Turnquest said.
“The only bank that has agreed is BOB, and that’s a government bank, which is another concern for me. To what extent did the government strong-arm the bank? It was said that they received clearance from its US correspondent bank, JP Morgan Chase. You have to worry about the relationship, but on the domestic front if BOB accepts (perceived) ‘dirty’ money from the web shops and they put that in with ‘clean’ money from acceptable sources then that money is essentially contaminated. So either from transfer or cheque from BOB, it’s still a gateway to the formal banking sector.”
Recently CIBC FirstCaribbean’s Bahamian managing director, Marie Rodland-Allen, confirmed that the three Canadian-owned banks operating in the Bahamas were standing firmly behind their position not to accept deposits from a legalised web shop industry. She noted that her institution – and Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) and Scotiabank — was prohibited from accepting web shop gaming deposits due to the bank’s worldwide policy.
Earlier this month, Prime Minister Perry Christie said he received confirmation from Royal Bank of Canada that the bank would accept funds processed by the Bank of the Bahamas from web shops.
In an interview with Tribune Business, Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcombe said the government was hoping “over time” to reassure the Bahamian commercial banking industry that it was safe to accept deposits, and transact business, with a legalised web shop gaming industry.
Mr Wilchcombe, who has responsibility for gaming, said that convincing the banks about the web shop industry’s integrity might require greater use of technology.
The government is expected to grant gaming house operator licenses to approved web shops in May or June.