By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
A newly-licensed web shop operator is “hopeful” that the industry’s legalised status will persuade the Bahamian commercial banking industry to accept its deposits.
Pete Deveaux, head of Percy’s at the Island Game, said the granting of conditional web shop gaming licenses, plus Gaming Laboratories International (GLI) certification, would help give the banks greater comfort that the industry did not represent a high money laundering risk..
Mr Deveaux, whose firm is one of the eight companies that has been granted a conditional gaming house operator license, told Tribune Business: “I think this is a step that would help the banks feel more comfortable with us.
“We also have the GLI 19 standard for interactive gaming, which I believe is the highest in the world. With us meeting the GLI standard and being regulated, hopefully they will take a different stance.”
GLI provides independent testing and inspection of electronic gaming products, and certifies gaming products based on the testing, inspection and compliance determinations made by its laboratories.
Legalising, regulating and taxing the web shop gaming industry was merely a ‘stepping stone’ to one of the Government’s key objectives - getting the multi-million dollar sums it generates annually accepted into the formal banking system.
With web shop monies previously forced into the informal economy, and being used to finance mortgages, business loans and other, legitimate commercial ventures, a significant chunk of economic and financial activity was left unregulated. This, in turn, exposed the Bahamas to greater scrutiny and the threat of ‘blacklisting’ by the likes of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
However, all commercial banks bar Bank of the Bahamas are refusing to accept deposits from a legalised web shop industry. They cite the fear of losing correspondent banking relationships, the policies of their global parents that prohibit the acceptance of onling gaming monies, and the high risk nature of gambling as reasons why the bar remains.
Obie Wilchcombe, minister of tourism, in a statement last week announced that just one of the nine applicants had been denied their conditional web shop gaming license.
Of the nine license applications submitted to the Gaming Board on March 10 this year, only the one by Bet Vegas appears to have been denied.
The eight successful companies are: the FML Group of Companies Limited trading as (t/a) FNM Webshop; GLK Ltd t/a A Sure Win; Jarol Investments Ltd t/a Chances Games; Paradise Games Bahamas Ltd t/a Paradise Games; Playtech Systems Ltd t/a Island Luck; T.I.G Investments Ltd t/a Percy’s at The Island Game; The Four Point Group Trading t/a Asue Draw + Spin; and Bahama Dream Web Café Ltd t/a Bahama Dreams.
The nine applicants will receive confirmation that they have either been awarded a license, or been disqualified, today . Then, on November 2, conditional gaming house operator licenses will be issued to the successful eight companies.
The disqualified applicant, Bet Vegas, will have until October 26 to shut down their operations.
An operator’s fee is assessed at $250,000; the premises fees are at $2,000 per location; and the operators must also pay $1,000 per agent. Successful applicants must now complete a “series of regulatory requirements before being granted a plenary license”, said Mr Wilchcombe.
Mr Deveaux said that despite the number of operators in the web shop industry, he believes there is room for growth. “There is lot more innovation and technology that still needs to be brought in,” he added.
“There is still more growth for us to do. This industry is still going to be very competitive but I think that the pie is big enough.”