By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE head of the country’s largest web shop chain yesterday said despite a few unspecified “issues” between industry operators and the government, his company was handling the industry’s transition to a legal entity “pretty well”.
Island Luck CEO Sebas Bastian said his company has not experienced any “hiccups” during the transition process to regulate web shops.
Rather, Mr Bastian said the “issues” that arose have already been dealt with between the government and the industry “behind closed doors”.
Mr Bastian’s comments came days after Tourism Minister Obie Wilchcombe said there had been no negative reaction from operators during the transition period.
Mr Wilchcombe last week added that the government had collected more than $20m from web shops in tax arrears and related fees as it worked to regularise the industry, but confirmed that there was still no decision on the number of licenses that will be issued.
When questioned yesterday, however, Mr Bastian confirmed that there were some issues that arose in view of the new legislation. However, to date, he said, the government has been “very responsive” in dealing with these problems.
He also said that to date, Island Luck has paid “somewhere in the millions” in tax arrears to remain open during the transitional period.
“We had a few (issues) on the table, we met, and they have been dealt with,” he said yesterday. “This is a process that we’re trying to keep out of the media. It’s already been a political football for so long, and all the issues are being hashed out behind closed doors between the industry and the government, and the process has been moving along pretty well.
“It’s a lot of work, very extensive documentation. Our associates and consultants (at Island Luck) are working very diligently to meet the February 20 deadline, but so far so good, we have no hiccups yet.”
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, who reside in the Bahamas, will qualify for licensing as a gaming house operator.
The closing date for purchasing a request for proposal (RFP) was January 9, 2015. The deadline for submitting applications for gaming house operator and gaming house premises licenses is February 20.
While not specifying exactly how much, Mr Bastian said Island Luck had paid its “fair share” of tax arrears.
“(It’s) in the millions dollars, yes,” he said. “It’s what’s required to keep the process moving, and once it’s required of us we’ll comply.”
Last week, Mr Wilchcombe said the government planned to have a full report on “the money taken in and the companies that will qualify for a license” in time for the budget debate in the House of Assembly.