By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
TOURISM Minister Obie Wilchcombe yesterday confirmed that ten web shop operators have submitted requests for proposals in their bid to obtain a gaming house operator’s licence and will now undergo “strict scrutiny” from the Gaming Board in order to operate legally in the country.
Mr Wilchcombe said yesterday the ten companies will now face “due diligence investigations that will delve into all aspects of their business operations” with the aim of establishing “whether the applicants, their shareholders and directors, and staff are deemed to be fit and proper to hold the licences they have applied for”.
Mr Wilchcombe’s statements came a day after the deadline for web shops to submit their bids for licences, which is part of the transition to a legal web shop industry. The previous deadline was February 20, but was extended due to the government and web shop operators not yet resolving their differences on how the sector’s taxes are to be calculated.
In a statement released yesterday, Mr Wilchcombe said the various proposals will now be “meticulously viewed to see whether they possess the requisite abilities and meet the necessary requirements to conform and comply with the provisions of the gaming and related legislation.”
He added: “The aim is to establish whether the applicants, their shareholders and directors, and staff are deemed to be fit and proper to hold the licences they have applied for.
“The board will look at each application, with the view to investigating each and every premise that will be utilised in the conduct of gaming within The Bahamas.
“At the time that, gaming house operator licences are issued by the responsible minister, those operators who have not been successful in their bid for licensing, will receive notices instructing them to close their businesses.”
He added: “Meanwhile operators and the public alike are reminded and advised that noncompliance with the provisions set out in the Gaming Act with regards to the transitional period, namely, the filing of full and frank disclosures, the payment of arrear business licence fees and penalties, in addition to the ongoing timely payment of monthly gaming taxes, will result in closure of those businesses. Operators who are not in compliance and who are not in possession of a publicly displayed compliance certificate from the Gaming Board should cease operations immediately and the public should refrain from patronising such premises.”
He added that police will help the Gaming Board in effectively policing and enforcing the law.
The list of approved gaming house operators is expected to be announced in May or June.
Mr Wilchcombe has previously said a maximum of eight licences may be awarded.
On Tuesday, Island Luck CEO Sebas Bastian told reporters the process for applying for a licence had cost his company more than $200,000.