By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
Bahamian web shop operators may sue the Canadian-owned commercial banks for “discrimination” over their refusal to accept deposits from a legalised gaming sector, a well-known QC said yesterday.
Addressing a Bahamas Association of Compliance Officers (BACO) seminar, Wayne Munroe suggested that Bank of the Bahamas (BOB), the only institution that has agreed to accept web shop gaming deposits, should insist that operators send more business to the bank.
He added that they could do this by requiring their collective 1,700 staff, and the estimated 80,000-100,000 gaming house patrons, to bank with Bank of the Bahamas as a way to send a message to the other commercial banks.
Mr Munroe told Tribune Business that Bahamian gaming house operators were “offended” that the commercial bank, with the exception of Bank of the Bahamas, were not accepting their deposits. Yet they were taking deposits from Bahamas-based casinos.
“For whatever reason, the banks still do not engage with the owners of the web shops,” Mr Munroe said. “They engage with Atlantis, which has online gaming for the whole world in US dollars and is a convertible currency, but the owners of web shops can only do business with domestic players in Bahamian dollars.
“The risk of someone doing business in a convertible currency is higher than someone doing business in a non-convertible currency,” Mr Munroe added.
“The challenge is going to be at some point, once these guys feel that everything is over, they will look to bring an action against the banks for discrimination based on place of origin. That’s the only difference between them and Atlantis and Baha Mar.”
Mr Munroe continued: “These guys have enough money to pay me to take a case all the way to the Privy Council. These are not the type of litigants who are likely to say: ‘I’m just going to bow down and talk this’.
“I can tell you that they are already thinking about suing the commercial banks who don’t deal with them on the basis of discrimination.”
Mr Munroe suggested that Bank of the Bahamas insist that gaming house operators require their employees and patrons bank with them.
“I encourage Bank of the Bahamas to insist that if you bank with me, your customers must bank with me, your employees must bank with me and get all of this business of these 100,000 people,” he added. “Put some pain on all of these others and maybe they will change their minds.”
Mr Munroe added that online gaming provided a “perfect solution” to money laundering concerns.
“There is the ability to pay into your account through your bank and receive your money directly at your bank,” he said.
“You won’t really have a problem of the cash transactions, which I was always told was a big issue in money laundering. Online gaming gives the ability to do away with the need for cash, although you wouldn’t take that option out.”