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National Lottery ‘Front And Centre’

Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar. Photo: Terrel W. Carey/Tribune Staff

Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar. Photo: Terrel W. Carey/Tribune Staff

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

THE creation of a Bahamian national lottery is “front and centre” for the Gaming Minister, who yesterday warned web shops: “The status quo needs tweaking.”

Dionisio D’Aguilar declined to divulge details to Tribune Business, but said he had “a few ideas” as to how a national lottery could be structured and developed in this nation.

“Bahamians are crying for that. That’s very much front and centre in my mind,” the Minister of Tourism responded, when asked by this newspaper whether a national lottery remained a possibility.

Mr D’Aguilar’s remarks effectively opened up a new front in his ongoing battle with the numbers houses, given that many - both inside and outside the industry - believed a national lottery had been ‘removed from the table’, and was not a subject for discussion, when the industry was ‘legalised’.

With the web shops scooping up all domestic gambling proceeds, it was felt there would be insufficient appetite and income to fund a national lottery, and the former Christie administration dropped the idea.

However, national and state lotteries in nations such as the US and UK have raised millions of dollars for charities and good causes, and provided significant funding for projects that benefit society.

The national lottery topic arose as Mr D’Aguilar effectively ‘doubled down’ on concerns he raised in Parliament last week, arguing that the web shops’ efforts to compare themselves to hotel casinos “shouldn’t be taken seriously”.

While resorts such as Atlantis and Baha Mar generated billions of dollars in GDP impact and foreign exchange earnings, the Minister said the gaming houses were wealth redistributors rather than creators - taking money from many, with the profits reaped by relatively few.

Pointing out that the proliferation of web shop gaming was imposing a huge social cost on Bahamian communities via gambling addictions, Mr D’Aguilar suggested it should be viewed like alcohol and cigarettes, and subjected to ‘sin’ or ‘vice’ taxes.

The Minister also suggested the sector’s Know Your Customer (KYC) processes were deficient, set alongside its functioning as a money transfer business, because a client’s sources of income were not verified.

And Mr D’Aguilar, defending his description of the sector as a ‘cartel’, said the 10-year moratorium barring new entrants was ‘hypocritical’ given that the web shop operators have been using their profits to expand into other sectors of the economy where there are no such obstacles.

“My position is the status quo, in the eyes of many, including the Government, needs tweaking. It warrants a discussion,” Mr D’Aguilar told Tribune Business. “They’re [the web shops] very happy because they’re making oodles of money.

“If I had a business making oodles of money, and some whipper snapper like D’Aguilar turns up and says the nature of the profits being generated by the industry for the benefit of so few, at the expense of so many, is generating too high a social cost and there needs to be a rebalancing, I might be unhappy, too.”

Emphasising that he would not back down, despite intense push back from the Gaming House Operators Association last week, Mr D’Aguilar said a review of the sector was likely to “crystallise” prior to next year’s Budget.

“This whole industry has been shrouded in a certain element of secrecy,” he added. “We’ve got to have discussions and see where it’s going to go.

“Don’t confuse the theatre of Parliament with the need to get specific results and specific improvements. The status quo is not perfect, and we need to tweak it.”

Gaming house operators are currently required to pay 11 per cent of their taxable revenue or 25 per cent of earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA), depending on which one is greater.

They also pay 2 per cent of their revenues to charitable causes and entities, which generated the Association’s argument last week that its effective tax rate is 13 per cent, when hotel-based casinos pay just 5 per cent and also enjoy significant tax incentives.

Mr D’Aguilar, though, argued that the comparison was disingenuous and like matching “apples with oranges”. He added: “This comparison with the established casinos is, in my opinion, completely flawed because the casinos are governed by a Heads of Agreement.

“They get a favourable tax rate because they make, in most instances, many billions of dollars in investments and create thousands of jobs - 8,000 at Atlantis, and 5,000 at Baha Mar.

“Clearly, the GDP effect of those hotels is far more substantial and far more positive than those numbers houses. They don’t have nearly the GDP effect to compare themselves to an investment like Atlantis and Baha Mar, in my humble opinion,” the Minister continued.

“The comparison’s completely flawed, and not to be taken seriously. Yes, they pay a higher rate, but over the GDP impact, economic effect and creation of high-paying jobs, there’s no comparisons.”

Mr D’Aguilar said the proliferation of web shops throughout the Bahamas, and easy access to gambling, had created a growing addiction problem - especially in the Family Islands.

“We need to come up with a mechanism to try and limit the damaging effects from many, many people blowing their weekly or monthly wages on gambling,” he added.

“Certainly, in the Family Islands it’s been devastating. The MP for Long Island pulled me aside and told me there are many, many numbers houses in Long Island, and it seems it’s having a tremendous effect on the social fabric of the island. People are addicted.”

Acknowledging that he backed the web shop industry’s legalisation, Mr D’Aguilar suggested he had the Bahamian people’s support for the imposition of more controls on the sector.

“It’s not just about taxation; it’s about how we lessen the impact of this vice,” he said. “I think a lot of people are clamouring for a bit more regulation, and a bit more control, over the sector.

“It seems as if they’re building these huge gaming houses, everywhere you look there’s a numbers house, and it’s beginning to affect the working mind of the people; why work when you can gamble? As a government, we have to be aware a bit more of the impact of this vice. Everywhere you look it’s a free-for-all, there’s unimpeded access and we’re losing our minds.”

The Gaming House Operators Association last week said its members applied the most stringent KYC due diligence in the financial sector, after Mr D’Aguilar raised concerns that they could attract the ire of global regulators by acting as unlicensed, unregulated money transmission businesses.

The Minister responded yesterday, though, that while web shops required government-issued identification and utility bills from customers, they did not verify income sources.

This, he added, was why the Central Bank was concerned and the issue “needs addressing”, especially as “anyone can put money on an account and someone can take that off an account”.

And while the word ‘cartel’ had negative connotations, Mr D’Aguilar maintained that the 10-year moratorium granted to the existing eight web shop license holders meant this description was accurate, as there can be no new entrants until 2027.

“They have no competition; the law is protecting them,” he told Tribune Business. “The law is saying no one can enter into that business, and the profits are substantial. They’ve got a guaranteed revenue stream for 10 years, and market share.

“We should review that. They don’t ever have to worry about competition in their core market, because no one else can enter, but they can enter into other markets and compete with everyone else there.”

Island Luck and its principal, Sebas Bastian, have already done exactly that by entering the real estate and construction markets with Brickell Management Group and Vandoff Construction, plus securities and investment banking with Investar Securities.

Mr D’Aguilar, meanwhile, suggested that the web shop industry is “already dominated by one” player as it consolidates, with a number of operators sharing a common gaming platform provided by one house.

“I haven’t looked into it, but I’m told there’s common ownership at a number of houses,” the Minister added. “I don’t think that was supposed to be... the licenses were supposed to have been open to other people.”

Comments

Well_mudda_take_sic 1 week, 1 day ago

D'Aguilar will hands down win the support of most Bahamians and at the same time make a huge name for himself in frontline politics if he is successful in (1) effectively shutting down the criminal enterprises of the racketeering numbers bosses like Sebas Bastian and Craig Flowers, and (2) establishing a National Lottery. His tough words must be followed up with tough actions. He seems to have an excellent grasp of what is at stake for our nation if the money laundering and other illegal activities of the web shop operators and owners are not altogether shut down or otherwise curtailed in a very big way. The charming little yapping white-haired poodle will need to take on the persona of a menacing and snarling tenacious pit bull to deal with criminal thugs like Sebas Bastian and Craig Flowers and their greedy professional advisors who serve as witting aiders and abetters to these criminal enterprises.

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DDK 1 week, 1 day ago

"Acknowledging that he backed the web shop industry’s legalisation, Mr D’Aguilar suggested he had the Bahamian people’s support for the imposition of more controls on the sector." Seems a bit contradictory, does it not?

Like the canine analogy!

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Well_mudda_take_sic 1 week, 1 day ago

Repost: D'Aguilar was much too kind in calling the numbers' bosses and their webs shops and other related enterprises a "cartel". They are in fact, as the global financial community regards them to be, criminal enterprises engaged in money laundering and all sorts of other illegal activities. What these thugs like Sebas Bastian and Craig Flowers do not understand (and perhaps D'Aguilar as well) is that the issue here is not at all about the numbers' bosses taxation and bribery costs. It is instead all about shutting down their criminal operations before the global financial community cuts-off all legitimate Bahamian financial institutions (operating in or from within the Bahamas) from the global financial system as a necessary de-risking condition imposed by regulators in the developed countries. Most Bahamians share the view that the black market dealings of these moronic racketeering criminals (Sebas Bastian and Craig Flowers) are a costly blight on our economy and a scourge on our society. They are a deadly cancer eating us from within that will most assuredly destroy our country. These thugs should not have access to any bank (including the government controlled Bank of The Bahamas) or any kind of money transmission system, period. They should be shut down and their assets confiscated. They were born of a corrupt Christie-led PLP government and therefore have no legitimacy whatsoever, legal or otherwise!

Unfortunately heavy-handed taxation and fees are not the answer. We cannot afford for our government to be seen to be partnering with criminal enterprises with its share of the ill-gotten profits/gains taking the form of high taxes and fees. Our international friends and the global financial community are demanding our government shutdown the criminal enterprises headed by the corrupt racketeering numbers' bosses, and would much prefer we establish a National Lottery. The profits from a National Lottery could be earmarked by statute to help fund the significant costs of our public education system and/or national healthcare system.

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bogart 1 week, 1 day ago

Some 3,000 Churches, many located in the dense highly populated urban areas where the most prayers are needed one would have expected the church pastors to have something to say on the gambling of the people in the area. With people being laid off and alreafy high unemployment where is the money coming from to gamble and also pay church collestion?

Many of the voting centres oon the Gambling Reerendum were loacted in the Church Halls or on Church property.

Pastors have said plenty on LGBTN even going down to protest in Rawson Square, managed to get legislation dropped on it being a crime if a dirty no good scheming drunk husband rapes his wife, managed tp prevent Bahamian females from having the same rights as Bahamian men etcetc. BUT not much to say on the webshops.

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DDK 1 week, 1 day ago

Hopefully, the National Lottery will be implemented, sooner rather than later and not just given lip service.

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TalRussell 1 week, 1 day ago

Comrades! Red between lines Dionisio's script and it is not in prime minister Minni's DNA to take on and enforce whatever actions are necessary to establish a Bahamaland Lottery Corporation.
There remains serious problems and concerns still boiling inside Bahamalanders when it comes to how the Christie administration screwed the citizens over how they went about 'regularising' the criminal numbers rackets.
How can the Minnis administration, correct something - if they are not prepared to acknowledge that whatever 'regularising' was done - was contrary to the EXPRESSED WILL of the PEOPLE - You cannot 'RE regularise' WRONG!

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bogart 1 week, 1 day ago

EUREKA !

To get the Pastors and Churches to have someting to say on gambling I should say that the LGBTN Bahamian women who have been sexually assauted by foreign husbands and who are likely to want the baby to be Bahamian and who are making too many babies anyhow are gambling in the webshops. OMG SAY SOMETING LIKE THAT AND ALL HELL WILL BREAK LOOSE WITH ALL THE PASTORS HAVING SOMETHING TO SAY INSTEAD OF THE SILENCE BY THE CHURCH AT THIS TIME.

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Reality_Check 1 week, 1 day ago

For those of you who do not know the scumbags behind the Brickell Management Group's money laundering operations for the Island Luck chain of gaming web shops, here is the entire list of BMG's directors listed on its web site at https://brickellbahamas.com/about-us/

  • Sebas Bastian (Chairman)
  • Wes Bastian
  • Paul D. Major (President & Managing Director)
  • Felix Stubbs
  • Keith Major Sr.
  • Cassius Stuart
  • Alfred Sears
  • Ed Fields
  • Leon Williams

Other entities associated with Sebas Bastian are Vandoff Construction, Investar Securities, and BMG Insurance Agents & Brokers. The latter entity no doubt received its license to conduct insurance business from our Insurance Commissioner, Michele Fields-Turnquest, who just so happens to be none other than the wife of Ed Fields. Did Sebas Bastian give Ed Fields his directorship of the BMG holding company as a quid quo pro for Ed's wife (Michele) issuing the insurance license? The cheese in Denmark never smells good when it comes to all those with ties to Sebas Bastian's various criminal enterprises!

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Well_mudda_take_sic 1 week, 1 day ago

Others who have allowed their names to be royally sullied by serving as a director of Island Luck (either currently or in the past) include Barry Malcom (ex-Scotia Bank), Julian Francis (ex-governor of Central Bank) and, of course, Alfred Sears (former MP and Attorney General). My oh my, what certain greedy people are willing to stoop to to make big extra bucks for influence peddling on behalf of a real low-life thug like Sebas Bastian. Once good reputations are now tarnished forever more!

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Reality_Check 1 week, 1 day ago

You forget to mention Dirk Simmons who worked for Citco before they shut down their Bahamas operations. Is he still serving as Island Luck's (Sebas Bastian's) CFO?

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Reality_Check 1 week, 1 day ago

Also see link below for names and faces of some of Sebas Bastian's other cohorts at his Investar Securities enterprise. Presumably Hillary Deveaux (former head of the Bahamas Securities Commission and now a director of Investar Securities) peddled his influence to get the licensing Sebas Bastian needed for Investar Securities.

http://www.ivstar.com/about-investar/board-of-directors/

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Sickened 1 week, 1 day ago

The names on that list are now repulsive to me. Thanks for that.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 1 week ago

Certain names on that list have been repulsive to many of us for decades. Of course they are all now most repugnant and repulsive by virtue of their ties to the criminal activities of the low-life thug, Sebas Bastian.

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TalRussell 1 week, 1 day ago

Comrade Reality_Check, I was and remain in opposition to how the Christie administration went about 'Regularising' the criminal numbers operations.... but Craig Flowers and Sebas Bastian are not to blame. They simply took advantage of a multi Billion Dollars - Christie administration Gift Horse.
Isn't the much bigger question is, will the red shirts administration undo the 'Regularising,' or just give it a red coat paint makeover?

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Well_mudda_take_sic 1 week, 1 day ago

And just what part of Sebas Bastian and Craig Flowers being infamous criminal thugs don't you get!

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TalRussell 1 week, 1 day ago

Comrade Well_mudda, where is your evidence of them being 'criminal thugs?

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Well_mudda_take_sic 1 week, 1 day ago

Plenty of evidence can be found on just about every street corner in our nation today unless of course you are one of the very few on this planet who believes the corrupt Christie-led PLP government had the legitimacy to somehow 'legalize' the criminal activities of the numbers bosses against the wishes of Bahamian voters as expressed in a national referendum. Have you also forgotten the most unusual manner in which a court conviction of Craig Flowers was quashed with the involvement of a most corrupt attorney general, namely Allyson Maynard-Gibson a/k/a the evil wicked witch?!

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Reality_Check 1 week, 1 day ago

Alfred Sears also played a big role in the wrongful quashing of Craig Flowers' court conviction - Sears represented Flowers in this most unholy matter! The corrupt Christie-led PLP government had initially drafted the gaming web shop legislation to allow the Gaming Board Chairman to issue a gaming license to an applicant with a previous court conviction. When that didn't fly, another way had to be found to give Flowers the clean record he needed to obtain a gaming license. That's how the unholy quashing came about!

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DDK 1 week, 1 day ago

They may not be responsible for 'regularising' but they and their ilk are the personification of nefarious.

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OldFort2012 1 week, 1 day ago

Just like anything else the Bahamian government sector touches, the National Lottery will be a disaster. If the National Lottery competes with the numbers houses, they will piss all over it so much that we will end up with the only money losing Lottery in the Universe.

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TalRussell 1 week, 1 day ago

Comrade OldFort2012, you couldn't be more right about what WILL happen if the proper independence and safeguards are not well thought out in advance of the establishment of the Bahamaland Lottery Corporation. We both knows that indeed there are those red shirts, who with the proper training - will soon become equal tiefers?

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sheeprunner12 1 week, 1 day ago

Repeal and Replace the Webshops Act (aka Gaming Act) ..........Shut down the existing webshops ....... Launch the National Lottery ......... Open BTC-like franchise shops for the National Lottery (and let there be a moratorium of 1 franchise shop per 5,000 population) ....... reps can sell numbers via mobile apps and online as well........ Then set up a sovereign wealth fund to create a "piggy bank" for the country.

This can be done quite easily .......... there are enough global examples to study

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DDK 1 week ago

The Government need not spend money to open BTC-like shops. The tickets can be purchased at local businesses, perhaps with a slight percentage going to the seller of the ticket, as with the selling of BTC top-up. Easy-peasy!

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sheeprunner12 1 week ago

Good point ......... but it has to have a moratorium ...... that is the problem today with the webshops on every corner ..... like bars and churches

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TalRussell 1 week, 1 day ago

Comrades! Why wouldn't 'Regularised' numbers businesses - not turn to prominent politicians, lawyers, bankers, known political fixers, and former senior policeman's - to help promote public acceptance and instill legitimacy to the selling and buying of numbers? You don't thinks they're on them boards cause of their numbers operational skills and knowledges they brought with them to the boards?

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Reality_Check 1 week ago

As if you do not know that organized criminals the world over nearly always seek to protect and grow their racketeering criminal enterprises by ingratiating themselves with, and hiding behind the facade of, soul-less greedy influence peddlers and corrupt politicians who can be 'bought' and become de facto accomplices to the criminal activities.

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TalRussell 1 week ago

Comrade Reality_Check, Is the numbers business wicked, probably so. Are they criminal enterprises, far from it - according to both the PLP's and Red Shirts attorney generals - says they've been 'Regularised' as being legit. Believe me there are still solid reasons to questions lots about the numbers businesses, but accusing operators of being thugs will not fly.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 1 week ago

Forget Tal...my mistake for having indulged him in the first place. It won't happen again anytime soon.

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BahamaPundit 1 week, 1 day ago

I'm behind a national lottery 100%. It's a no brainer. The only sad part is that thugs were able for this long to hold hostage the national lottery for their own selfish gains.

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John 1 week ago

Want to get D'Aguliar sweating? Just leak some plans the web shops have to invest in wash houses. To break the current monopoly held in the clothes washing sector. The web shops plans to remarry the industry under whose guise it started out. Ten - 50 cent wash and 20 dryers please!

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sheeprunner12 1 week ago

Get serious John .......... this is no time to compare laundromats and webshops ....... the only thing they have in common is "laundering".

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TheMadHatter 1 week ago

Child yinnah playin wit fire.

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John 1 week ago

@sheeprunner go study the history of web shops and wash houses then come talk to me. Otherwise be quiet and in favor of De'Agular's national lottery. Even afyall the studies and the electorate did not favor it.. a national lottery

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SP 1 week ago

FINALLY a step in the right direction with the gambling issue. A national lottery will benefit the entire country.

The webshop cowboy cartel is headed to the junkyard. Hopefully, PM Sheriff Minnis will have the fortitude to cause UBP cartels that have held the country hostage for decades to follow suit!

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Well_mudda_take_sic 1 week ago

Island Luck CEO Sebas Bastian said yesterday that he is prepared to have a sit down with Minister of Tourism Dionisio D’Aguilar regarding concerns that the minister has with the web shop industry.

"The industry is going to have a sit down with the minister and have a constructive conversation on the way forward,” Bastian said.

I don’t think there should be anything negative coming out of something like that.

It’s just the way you do business. I think when all the parties get in the room we will have a positive resolution on all sides.”

Bastian stressed that he did not want to have a “dialogue in the media”. “The back and forth via the media is not constructive,” he said.

“I will not fall victim to that.”

There's only one reason this cocker roach of a thug wants to take the media advantage away from D'Aguilar. Sebas Bastian knows full well the vast majority of Bahamians want the web shop legislation born out of government corruption to be repealed in its entirety. Only then can the web shops and other criminal enterprises of the corrupt racketeering numbers bosses be shutdown with proper strong law enforcement and a tightly run National Lottery established to accommodate the much more socially responsible gambling (entertainment) needs of residents of the Bahamas.

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Reality_Check 1 week ago

This is a red hot political potato for the Minnis-led FNM government. No, it is even much more than that. For Minnis it's a politically deadly grenade in his hand with the pin pulled! D'Aguilar would be a total fool to agree to anything put to him by the numbers bosses behind closed doors without widespread public consultation through the media. The same applies to Minnis. During his election campaigning Minnis promised the voters time and time again that his government would set the gold standard for transparency. Of course we all know the modus operandi of Sebas Bastian has always been to bribe government officials whenever he can behind closed doors to protect or expand his criminal enterprises. Here's where we find out just what type of men D'Aguilar and Minnis truly are. Let's hope they remember it's the people's time!

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Well_mudda_take_sic 1 week ago

Let's hope too that Minnis and D'Aguilar remember that heavy-handed taxation and higher fees alone are not the solution to this scourge on our society and the reputation of our country. As mentioned before, we simply cannot afford for our government to be seen to be partnering with criminal enterprises with its share of the ill-gotten profits/gains taking the form of very high taxes and fees. Our international friends and the global financial community are now hinting in no unsubtle way that our country's banking system is at serious risk of being cut-off from the global financial system if our government does not shutdown the criminal enterprises headed by the corrupt racketeering numbers' bosses. Both Minnis and D'Aguilar had better not fall victim to shooting-from-their-hips in dealing with the blight on our country caused by the criminal enterprises of the numbers bosses. As Minnis likes to point out, we must accept that we live in a larger world.

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John 6 days, 5 hours ago

Maybe the government needs to take notes form the so called Sebas Cartel. Well organized, good planning, controls and forward thinking has lead to the profitability and success. despite what the haters say. better to leave gambling private than to have government meddle with it and get brown nosed.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 6 days, 5 hours ago

True to form you remain a most ardent supporter of the criminal enterprises run by the corrupt racketeering numbers bosses. Have they started putting a little extra butter on your bread for all of your efforts being made to try make them look good or somehow appear legitimate?

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John 6 days, 4 hours ago

I should not dIgnify your post with a response but what part of the Web Shop business is corrupt racketeering? Not unlike any casino business? Admit it, you hate to see anything Bahamian successful. And worse for a company of Black Bahamians...but its the people's time!

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Well_mudda_take_sic 6 days, 3 hours ago

Only weak minds play the race card today my friend; besides, I would not be surprised if I'm a shade or two darker than you. You seem to think only lighter skinned people are capable of thinking, which might explain some of the issues you have going on in that head of yours.

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sheeprunner12 6 days, 2 hours ago

John ........ do you for a minute believe that the Sebas Cartel is Bahamian-owned??????? ............. smt

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baldbeardedbahamian 6 days ago

Wow, thank you Realitycheck. Felix Stubbs? The prominent member of Rotary who was later appointed to director of NIB. Coincidently under his watch the former Prime Minister was granted honouree membership of Rotary. Obviously these events were totally unconnected. although I do think Mr. Stubbs should do the right thing and resign membership of an organization that prides itself on service above self and not self serving behaviour. Mr. Stubbs would not of course engage in any self serving behaviour but just the possibility of the perception should prompt action. Caesar's wife and all that. Of course we expect this sort of thing from ex-plp ministers so Alfred is in the right place.

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banker 4 days, 5 hours ago

I have stories about Felix Stubbs.

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sheeprunner12 3 days, 6 hours ago

Share some of your stories, please!!!!!!!!!! ........ These guys parade around always as the "experts" and the "benevolent ones" ........ but when you look below the surface, many of them are destroying the middle and lower classes by their drive to become part of the ONE PERCENT social class.

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