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Govt Alarmed Over Web Shop Draw, Product Rise

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

The Government is becoming alarmed by the rapid expansion in web shop products and draw frequency, a Cabinet Minister revealed yesterday.

Dionisio D’Aguilar, the minister of tourism, told Tribune Business that the Minnis administration was more concerned by this trend than the number of physical web shop locations.

Pointing out that web ship locations had decreased by 37 per cent nationwide compared to pre-legalisation numbers, the Minister, who has responsibility for gaming, said the Government remained conscious of the potential anti-social impacts.

“The question is not the number of premises; it’s the number of opportunities to bet,” Mr D’Aguilar told Tribune Business. “They have draws every half hour now. We’ve got to look at that. Gaming exacts an economic toll on the well-being of the local population.”

He added that the Minnis administration was “mindful that some communities, especially in the Family Islands, have been devastated” by the proliferation of web shop gaming, which has sucked significant monies out of those small economies.

“There has been an enormous proliferation in the number of products the numbers houses offer,” the Minister said, despite locations reducing from 635 in 2014 to 400 now.

Acknowledging that it was “only natural” for the seven legalised web shop operators to grow and expand their businesses, Mr D’Aguilar said the Government had to assess whether it was “in the best interests of the Bahamian people” to let it go unhindered.

The web shop industry is forecast to generate $15 million, or almost three-quarters of the Government’s $21 million in gaming taxes for the 2016-2017 fiscal year, and Mr D’Aguilar said the Minnis administration had to consider whether this was sufficient to balance the sector’s potential social impact. With taxes based on an 11 per cent gross revenue levy, he estimated that web shops were collectively generating around $135 million in annual revenue.

While agreeing that “gaming is here to stay, no doubt about it”, the Minister said the Bahamas had to ensure that it became “a favourite past time, as opposed to a way of life”, for all it citizens.

The Government’s other tourism plans were unveiled yesterday by the Prime Minister, who said it planned to split Grand Bahama ‘in three’ and market/promote each segment to a different niche.

Dr Hubert Minnis said the Freeport/Lucaya area would be marketed as a sporting/wellness/maritime tourism destination, while east and west Grand Bahama would be focused on eco-tourism and a “dynamic cultural village” respectively.

“Reviving Grand Bahama is pivotal to our realising our national economic objectives,” the Prime Minister said. “Our goal is to make Grand Bahama a renowned duty-free shopping centre for residents and millions of visitors from south Florida and around the world.”

Promising to revive downtown Nassau and Bay Street, but giving few details, Dr Minnis pledged to refurbish the cruise passenger welcome centre at Festival Place and deliver on the harbourfront promenade/walkway talked about by the Christie administration.

He said this would run from Woodes Rodgers Wharf eastwards to Armstrong Street, and include commercial and recreational space that would facilitate retail and restaurant opportunities for Bahamians.

As for the Family Islands, Dr Minnis said the Government would use Crown Land grants to assist economic development, as well as provide technical and marketing support. He also called for Bahamians to establish inter-island air hubs in the Family Islands, and promised investments to upgrade transportation and water supply infrastructure.

The Prime Minister also called for a reduction in the Bahamas’ food import bill through the increased supply of local produce to the hotel and restaurant industry.

This, he added, would enable BAMSI to focus on producing “select quality products” for both export and domestic use. The Government also plans to privatise the produce exchange.

Comments

birdiestrachan 4 months ago

Close all of the web shops down. remember that is one of the things the PLP party got wrong and some were against them for legalizing Web shop. The new sheriff in town should start with that and close down Bastian first. The FNM did not want those business legalized. so close them all.

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Regardless 4 months ago

......this will be the perfect time to show some balls and stop talking. Shut them down or tax them out of existence. Keep Lloyd out of anything to do with it as he is compromised!

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Porcupine 4 months ago

Gaming is here to stay, no doubt about it. Whoever said that should go. Sellout of the country to the lowlife criminals. Have these idiots lost their fooling minds?

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sheeprunner12 4 months ago

Say NO to webshops .................. Say YES to national lottery ......... DD has to do that this term

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Well_mudda_take_sic 4 months ago

We had the drug cartels purportedly driving the economic activity of our country in the 1980s and look where that got us. Now we have low life racketeering thugs like Sebas Bastian and Craig Flowers purportedly driving our economic activity and any sane individual can see as plain as day the resulting disastrous and devastating implications that lie ahead for us as a people. All countries that are allowed to be run by crime cartels of any kind eventually become failed states....that's a simple enough fact! These low life thugs find it easier and much more profitable to bribe politicians, regulators and law enforcement officials rather than do business on a level playing field and abide by the rule of law. Permitting them access to our legitimate banking system causes enormous gross misallocations of scarce capital resources to non-productive sectors within our economy as these gangsters quickly go about snuffing out the legitimate productive taxpaying private sector. We can only pray Minnis did not allow himself to be easily "bought" by Bastian and Flowers in the same way that they "bought" Crooked Christie! Even Lucifer himself would think twice before making any kind of pact with these evil criminal monsters!!

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ThisIsOurs 4 months ago

Well they got Paul Major out the way. Sebas talking all kinda big things now electronic payments, banking license IPO etc etc. As a friend pointed out to me they now have a spot for an FNM operative, someone with influence over Dr Minnis. As you I hope these ministers aren't compromised

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Porcupine 4 months ago

Dr. Minnis,

I am proposing an opportunity to make your first bold action in the leadership of this nation. The subject of this proposal is the issue of gaming in The Bahamas. The proposal is this: Nationalize ALL of the web shops, effective September, 2017. The reasons for doing so are as follows: Many of us see the results of the recent referendum, whereby the people of The Bahamas spoke in no uncertain terms, as the highest priority regarding the most basic tenants of democracy. Nothing has changed since this referendum. The people spoke. Why are you willing to ignore the voice of the people? This question must be answered by you. The present dangers of the web shops to the country of The Bahamas are as follows: National Security – subversion of democracy. It is speculated that the owners of the web shops have influenced our political process by making campaign contributions in amounts that very few Bahamians can match. By doing so, they are putting our democracy at stake. These campaign contributions make a mockery of the idea of equality in representation. They make all politicians who accept this money corrupt. That you have not recognized and addressed the obvious great harm that the web shops are causing to our country leave either your intelligence, your honesty, or your integrity suspect. As a medical doctor, you must be well aware of the undeniable links between poverty and health. There can be no legitimate discussion contrary to all the reports of these connections. Web shops are directly contributng to the growing impoverishment of this nation. Please address this issue honestly and directly. Crime – It is undeniable that the rise of the web shops has directly contributed to the escalating crime in our country. Many business owners have publically spoken about their having to fire managers and employees due to stealing as a result of their gambling habits. One can only imagine the other unspoken elements of crime that come directly from the web shops. It is an established fact that domestic violence is often a direct result of poverty and economic hardship. How can this fact escape you as a medical professional?

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Porcupine 4 months ago

On many of the Family Islands, what we are witnessing can be called nothing short of devastating, directly due to the presence of web shops. Perhaps it is more difficult to make the connection in Nassau, but any honest Family Islander who is not in the grips of a gambling addiction must acknowledge the devasting economic and social consequences of the web shops. Can you argue this point? While I understand the economic contributions in taxes paid by the web shops, let me offer a very clear and succinct solution. Nationalize the web shops. They will now be owned by the PEOPLE, which is the government of The Bahamas. Instead of just a small share of takings in the form of taxes going into the general fund, many multiples of this current amount will now be available to help run the government and reduce our national debt. The web shop owners have already been made richer than most Bahamians could ever dream of. I recently read where the web shop owners are increasing their property acquisitons in The Bahamas by tens of millions of dollars annually. Dr. Minnis, please specifically state your position on this? How do you feel about the web shop owners owning more and more valuable property in The Bahamas? I am not against hard work being rewarded, however, I have a strong moral objection to the treasures of this great country being shifted to those who really contribute so little to the welfare of this country. Dr. Minnis, please give us your views on this matter. Increase the level of winnings, if you must, until we can get this national vice under some type of control and have the opportunity to improve the lives of our poorest so that they do not find it necessary to take their hard earned little money and gamble it away. Use a portion of the funds to educate and help people break free of this deadly vice. Can you, Dr. Minnis, not see this gambling epidemic here as a deadly vice? What would you call it? I believe the epidemic of gambling here in The Bahamas is a syptom of the inability to make a living wage from an average job. Let me repeat this, Dr. Minnis. I believe that the epidemic of gambling here in The Bahamas is the direct result of not being able to make a living wage from an average job. I am trying to be charitable and Christian in my thinking. What do you say about this epidemic, Dr. Minnis? If you are unwilling to call this an epidemic, what would you call it? Do you not see a direct causal relationship between our anemic economy and the escalation of gambling? I suspect that your political campaign was influenced by the web shop owners money. If not, what objections do you have with this proposal? Is there a point made here that you disagree with?

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Porcupine 4 months ago

Could these massive amounts of money being spent in the web shops not be used for the betterment of our nation? Do you honestly feel that the people presently being enriched by the web shops are entitled to continue enriching themselves at the expense of The Bahamas? Do you believe that there is a moral issue with nationalizing the web shops, or is there a reason you cannot speak about as to your loyalty to the web shop owners? Dr. Minnis, I believe it is time for the Bahamian people to throw the mace out the window. I believe this issue is strong enough on its own to warrant dramatic action. I believe that The Bahamas is in a fiscal and social crisis and that this move alone will help change the direction of our country, if only a little to begin with. Do you not agree that we are in a fiscal and social crisis? If you agree, do you not agree that immediate, decisive and radical action must be taken? I would suggest that all Bahamians, as well as, the future of this nation would benefit by nationalizing the web shops with no adverse effects to anyone. The government would gain a huge share of the income and profits. We could maintain the choice for the average Bahamian to gamble if they wish. We could make it a national priority to help treat the existing, prevalent gamblng addiction and educate our people as to the real costs of gambling.

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Porcupine 4 months ago

With this said Dr. Minnis, I would like to propose that the people of The Bahamas come together on this issue and give you no choice in the matter. I would propose massive demonstrations and the shutting down of the country if you choose to ignore the will of the people. I would further propose that you are physically carried from your office and deposited in the street if you contnue to side with the unfair enrichment of a few, instead of the betterment of the whole nation. If you can find fault with this proposal, let the people know. We elected a public servant, not a king. Please act on our behalf immediately. Or, suffer the consequences.

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Porcupine 4 months ago

If anyone here agrees with my proposal above, please print it out and try and get other on board. I can not do this alone. We must make this the people's time. It cannot just be a political slogan.

Thanks.

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OMG 4 months ago

I totally agree. The gaming shops have made some Bahamians incredibly wealthy on the backs of struggling Bahamians. As for BAMSI, why the hell are they growing vegetables/fruit that the average Bahamian farmer has been growing for years and is an expert. Why not teach/experiment growing the stuff that is imported and expensive such as Romaine Lettuce at $10 a pack?

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TalRussell 4 months ago

Comrade Minister Tourism (& Numbers Houses) can you inform the public if any of the Numbers Houses are renting/leasing/sharing premises from Red Shirts Landlord/Rental Agents - and if to list the locations and terms rents/leases? Also, which, if any, Red Shirts MP's, Senators, Party or Branch Level officials are directly/indirectly employed, consulting or acting in any professional capacities for the Numbers Houses? Comrades, I am as much puzzled why Numbers Houses have remained the responsibility of the Reds Minister of Tourism as I expressed under the PLP's MOT. {I thought that Numbers are not even allowed to be sold to the tourists and visitors - or are they allowed or are being sold to the tourists and visitors.... What about online sales non-residents outside the Bahamaland?}.
What, if any Red Shirts, own shares or conduct business with the Numbers Houses and were all financial dealings disclosures contained in the 2017 Candidates required Financial Disclosures - and how accurate are those Financial Disclosures?

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birdiestrachan 4 months ago

The FNM government will not close down the web shops. they will suck them to the bitter end. they did not have the courage or the common sense to relegalize them and they used it against the PLP.

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proudloudandfnm 4 months ago

We voted no in that CONSTITUTIONAL REFERENDUM.

CLOSE THEM DOWN...

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akbar 4 months ago

Gambling is what makes up the lion share of our tourism industry without it most of these anchor hotels would be drier than the Sahara Desert. If you going to close down the webshops and gambling so morally wrong then shut down the hotel casinos. You cannot legislate morality. We suppose to live in a democratic society grant it there need to be more oversight and regulations (tax them fairly) with the so called "local' industry but why should a foreigner come to my home and do what I am not able to do. Yes there are social ills that can be attributed to gambling but also there are many social ills associated with alcohol but no cry to stop issuing liquor licences. Grow up Bahamas! Yinna want big city amenities without paying big city prices. You cant have one without the other. If you don't partake in gambling fine but don't stop others from participating in a perfectly legal activity for their enjoyment or detriment. That's what a free society about.

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