By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
The only web shop operator denied a license yesterday slammed the 10-year block on new industry entrants, saying: “It makes no sense.”
Anthony Brown, Bet Vegas’s president, told Tribune Business that the 10-year moratorium announced by the Government was illogical “under the current circumstances” given his company’s ongoing Judicial Review action.
Anthony Brown, Bet Vegas’s president, told Tribune Business: “First and foremost, they haven’t really fully regulated the industry. How can a moratorium be issued with a matter pending before the courts?
“This doesn’t make any sense. You have to resolve the pending issues first and then move on from there. If the moratorium is for eight, but you’re saying there are only seven licensed, then who is the eighth?”
Nine companies applied for gaming house licenses when the Government began the process to legalise, regulate and tax the sector.
Eight applicants were subsequently provided with provisional licenses,with Bet Vegas the only operator to have been denied. Bet Vegas has since mounted a legal challenge to that decision via Judicial Review.
Island Luck, Nassau Games, Percy’s Island Games, A Sure Win, Chances, Paradise Games, Bahama Dreams and Asue Draw were all awarded licenses.
However, Asue Draw + Spin later announced it would not renew its gaming house operator license for 2016-2017, and exited from the industry. And Island Luck also acquired the majority 65 per cent equity stake in Bahama Dreams, effectively reducing the number of licensed operators from eight to six.
Mr Brown yesterday said he was “not backing down” in his efforts to be licensed, while admitting that the company had not made a profit last year due to the negative publicity stemming from the Judicial Review challenge.
“For me it’s about the principle,” he added. “If you’re talking about legitimising a process, then you can deny anyone who qualifies.
“I’m not closing down. I’m going to be expanding, and that’s why I’m hiring. They’re issuing a moratorium but you have operators expanding. Ever since the legislation was passed web shop locations have increased. What is the Gaming Board really doing?”
Obie Wilchcombe, who has ministerial responsibility for gaming, announced in a statement last week that the Government had decided to limit the number of gaming house operator licenses to eight until 2027.
However, this moratorium does not prevent the Minister from issuing a request for proposal (RFP) for a gaming house operator license in the event that its existing holder goes out of business or has it revoked.
And no such moratorium has been placed on the number of web shop houses that will be allowed to exist in the Bahamas, or on the number of locations each operator will be allowed to have.
Craig Flowers, the FML Group of Companies chief executive, recently told Tribune Business that there were “too many” outstanding issues facing the industry that have yet to be resolved, and questioned how many gaming licenses are in fact active at present.