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‘We’ll tackle any illegal web shops’

Attorney General Carl Bethel.

Attorney General Carl Bethel.

By AVA TURNQUEST

Tribune Chief Reporter

aturnquest@tribunemedia.net

ATTORNEY General Carl Bethel yesterday warned that any illegality in the gaming industry will be “vigorously addressed” by the government as he moved to address recent statements by gaming house operators that appeared to resonate as a threat of moving “underground” to escape impending tax increases.

A study released by the Bahamas Gaming Operators Association warned 2,000 jobs will be lost, and 75 per cent of its locations will close, if the government follows through with its new sliding scale tax structure.

But it also projected the increases and their impact on the seven licensed web shop chains would drive 30 per cent of the industry’s existing customer base to an “underground black market.”

Yesterday, Mr Bethel said: “Any resort to ‘underground market’ resonates with a threat of illegality. Any illegality will be vigorously addressed by the government.

“It is hard to see the validity of any threatened legal action if the same is backed by the clients’ threat to resort to illegalities or ‘underground’ activities, if they are unable to demand and receive the fruits of their proposed litigation without actually going to court –- just because they threaten to go underground.

“Such threats are unacceptable and any such underground activities will be addressed, as indicated,” Mr Bethel said.

Mr Bethel was referring to the seven-day ultimatum issued by BGOA – which expired today and called for the government to negotiate with the association or face legal action.

Finance Minister Peter Turnquest did not respond to calls for comment on the BGOA report up to press time.

Yesterday, Labour Minister Dion Foulkes said about the layoff threats: “I don’t want to comment on it. The minister of finance has carriage over all matters connected to taxation. He has been in several conferences, meetings, dialogue with stakeholders, I do not want to interfere.

“But I want to say that the object of the government from the Ministry of Labour point of view is to maintain jobs. We would wish to maintain existing jobs and to create new jobs, that is what our policies are all about with respect to what’s going on with the gaming houses.”

‘Gun to the head’

The gaming industry’s projection of thousands of job losses and web shop closures due to tax hikes was yesterday described as an attempt to “hold a gun to the government’s head” by two senior Cabinet ministers.

Another Cabinet minister told The Tribune the “brash and arrogant” group had made it clear they held an irrational or inflated sense of entitlement and influence on the governance of the country.

The Tribune spoke to three other Cabinet ministers, who yesterday sounded off on the gaming industry’s report with the condition they would be afforded anonymity.

One Cabinet minister asked: “Who’s actually running the country - is the government running the country or the numbers guys? The government is perfectly within its grounds, according to the constitution, to levy taxes.”

The minister continued: “There is nothing unconstitutional about that, that’s why we get real property tax paid by people in Nassau and not the Family Islands. You have examples of foreigners paying real property tax on undeveloped land, Bahamians don’t. There are many examples of variable approaches to taxation.

“Once you start going around the road about the high and mighty. They (web shop owners) happen to be black but imagine if this was a group of white powerful people that said this? People would be up in arms saying who are these people think they is!”

The minister continued: “Notwithstanding they have a lot of money, they are brash and arrogant. I don’t think they know who they dealing with.”

Another minister said: “I think they put a gun to the government’s head and they are saying it’s either our way or the highway. Any business establishment that does that, normally it doesn’t work. The government represents the people.

“Baha Mar’s former developer (Sarkis) Izmirlian said something to the PLP once and you see how that turned out,” the minister continued. “Perry went after them. This is a matter of sin taxes. There is a high tax on alcohol, high tax on tobacco and gambling.

“(The web shop operator) is very arrogant, he thinks because he has all these millions he can just tell the government what to do,” the minister added.

“Well I ain’t never get nothing from him and a sovereign government will never give away some basic obligations that they have to the people. I don’t care what court they go to, no court will ever rule in their favour.”

The Nassau Guardian’s editorial on Wednesday suggested web shop operators would form an alliance with the Progressive Liberal Party in a bid to oust the government – a theory that was condemned by the party’s chairman, Fred Mitchell, as “wrong and illogical.”

However, Cabinet ministers canvassed yesterday told The Tribune it was a likely development albeit not one that mattered much.

“They (web shops) probably will – so what?” said one minister.

“I think they dealt with the PLP using honey instead of a stick. Now they say ‘oh they contributed to the campaign.’”

The minister continued: “They did contribute to FNM campaigns, and to individual campaigns, so did hundreds of other people – that does not give you the right to dictate.

“I think they are overplaying their hand right now and it’s in part due to the arrogance of a few of them, probably led by one of them. All of a sudden, you’re a big star and you believe your s* don’t stink,” the minister said, “but all you are is a numbers boy. So stop.”

Comments

joeblow 4 years, 2 months ago

Use of the word 'tackling' is too weak. He should have had a clear plan of action of the gov't to address a resurgence of illegal web shops this problem namely, 1) previously expunged charges against web shop owners could be revived, 2) large fines in the hundred of thousands for each count of illegal gaming activity, with imprisonment and, 3) possible seizure of all assets (foreign and domestic) owned by the guilty web shop operators either individually, corporately or owned by relatives who cannot prove how they legally acquired the assets.

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John 4 years, 2 months ago

Has this man been spinning or what? The same arrogance and veiled threats he is accusing the web boys of is the same thing he is doing. If someone feels their livelihood or business revenue is threatened, then they have rights to seek relief through the courts. And Carl Bethel , as attorney general, should encourage that with a sober mind. A third party to help conflict resolution. And as for gambling going underground again, there’s two scenarios: First if the operating costs for the licensed shops become too much they may go underground. Secondly if the payouts by the licensed web shops become too small then a third force can emerge and start illegal operations. And Carl Bethel knows the government will not be able to stop it in either event. There are just too many people involved. And with the advent of technology the web shops can move their operations off shore, meaning another set of hundreds of millions of Bahamian dollars will be leaving the country, just like banking and hotel money. Leaving a big dent in government revenue. So Carl Bethel needs to calm his self down. Tone down the rhetoric. Find the middle ground. Illegal gambling was in this country before he born and before the some of those he accusing and who were very instrumental in getting gambling for Bahamians to be legalized, taxed and regulated. Don’t be the one for causing it to go back underground by yourself being arrogant and non accommodating.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 4 years, 2 months ago

There you go John singing for your supper again. We must think about the many more jobs that will in fact be saved by government putting these low-life racketeering criminal thugs out-of-business, consistent with the wishes of the vast majority of voters. We need that National Lottery and a repeal of all the legislation that has allowed the money laundering punks like Sebas Bastian and Craig Flowers to spread the tentacles of their criminal enterprises throughout our country. They must be cut off from our local banking system before global financial regulators make it impossible for legitimate banks to conduct banking business within and from the Bahamas. Our legitimate banks have become saturated with Bahamian dollars because the criminal empires run by the numbers bosses have choked off all residential and commercial mortgage lending business thereby forcing banks to downsize and rely more on fee income. The illegal activities of these low-life thugs are literally killing our legitimate economy and destroying generations of Bahamians by getting them hooked on spinning numbers. These blood-suckers must be shutdown and there's no way in today's world of tight banking regulations that they will be able to survive underground for long, especially if a National Lottery is established.

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John 4 years, 2 months ago

And Carl Bethel defense of not increasing taxes on foreign owned casinos while quadrupling taxes on Bahamian owned web shops is so weak and so whacked. If the government is in desperate search for additional revenue then why are there sacred cows? And yes IT IS discrimination in favor of foreigners to not increase taxes on them but do itbso viciously on Bahamians! Who is reall behind it., Mr. Attorney General! And taxes on foreign businesses as opposed to only Bahamian owned is more effective because the foreign money would have otherwise left the country . Why are y’all insisting on keeping this dual economy that is grounded in racism?

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Well_mudda_take_sic 4 years, 2 months ago

Still singing for your supper John? Government must keep or raise the tax rates currently being proposed in the 2019/20 budget for the web shops and at the same time establish a National Lottery totally exempt from all input/output VAT of any kind with the requirement that all net proceeds therefrom must be segregated by way of separate bank accounts and applied towards defraying public healthcare and public education costs . Then proceed to repeal in its entirely all of the legislation purporting to have 'legalized' the money laundering and other illegal activities of the racketeering numbers bosses and their criminal enterprises thereby ensuring they do not have access to our local banking system and the global banking system. Once this has all been done, there will be no underground gambling environment of any significant import or consequence to our national well-being. It's really as simple as that. Alfred Sears can argue discrimination on behalf of his partners, I.e. the numbers bosses like Sebas Bastian and Craig Flowers, until he is blue in the face. But there is nothing in 'valid' laws, i.e. laws not wrongfully forced or otherwise foisted on a society by corrupt politicians, that gives criminal thugs and their illegal activities the right to somehow be legitimized against the will of the people/voters, and to the detriment of our nation in the eyes of global financial regulators.

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Dawes 4 years, 2 months ago

So you want them to also change the law to say Bahamians can gamble in casinos and Tourists in webshops then?

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watcher 4 years, 2 months ago

Didn't "We the people" have our "Time" at the referendum and vote a big fat NO to webshops? How can Mr Bethel and others talk about a difference between legal and illegal webshops when there should not be any existing at all?

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OldFort2012 4 years, 2 months ago

John, you are a cretin if you don't see what the problem is.

Even worse is if you see the problem and you still write what you write. It means that your ass has been bought by the numbers boys and you will talk through it, singing for your supper.

Let me put it in very simple language, so, if you are a cretin, you have a chance of understanding me: Bahamians don't gamble in casinos. They gamble in the numbers houses. So, there is no "sin tax" to be collected from the casinos and if taxes were upped on them, no Bahamian would gamble less. So yes, it is discriminatory. In FAVOR of Bahamians. The less Bahamians gamble and lose, the better it is for them.

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John 4 years, 2 months ago

So now you write under different names to call me precisely what your mother is.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 4 years, 2 months ago

No my friend....no need to do that when there's a huge tidal wave of voters in this country that are demanding all of the 'illegal' legislation purporting to have somehow 'legalized' the money laundering and other criminal activities of the racketeering numbers bosses be repealed in its entirety, and that a National Lottery be established. We cannot exact enough sin taxes on the illegal activities of the numbers bosses to compensate for the harm and destruction they are causing to both the social and economic fabric of our society.

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John 4 years, 2 months ago

Mudder-sic you with your cretinous self have just confirmed what I said. Your mind is twisted, your reasoning is grounded is racism and you are totally Anti/Bahamian. Calling me names does not put any credibility to your nonsensical posts. And Bahamians DO gamble in the casinos. It’s just that Black Bahamians cannot gamble in them. Go in there and you see. Residents from Lyford Cay, Old Fort and Albany gambling. Are they stopped by security? NOT. So stop your dumb lies. The premise for banning Bahamians from gambling is grounded in racism. No matter how you sugar coat it. So if I am singing for my supper, WHO are you singing for? Secondly the crises where banks have lots of cash but cannot or will not make loans. Except you have brain damage, which you demonstrate you have, and are chronically racist, which you are, and totally anti Bahamian how can you blame Sebas and Flowers for this world wide bank situation? Banks created their own situation by making upside down loans, lending to unqualified borrowers and over inflating values on properties thereby making it impossible for borrowers to get out of their mortgages except packing their clothes and walking away from the property. You try to make bankers out to be such Lilly white holier than thou saints. Innocent victims and without sin. But how many fines has RBC and other banks had placed on them in Europe, and even other Caribbean nations? Fines totaling in the Billions of dollars. Penalties for crimes equilivant to insider trading. And how does banking fees in the Bahamas compare to other jurisdictions. Outrageous to say the least. So crawl back under your rock with your dirty lies and half truths. Your racism, bigotry and hate for (Black) Bahamians is eating you. And it started with your brain. So, yes you are indeed a cretin. The rest of your lack of proper brain functions you inherited.

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OldFort2012 4 years, 2 months ago

Since when were residents of Lyford, Old Fort & Albany "Bahamians"??

Since you have proven yourself a cretin, let me explain this to you too: the average Bahamian earns $21,000/ year. The average American $54,000. Since the average Bahamian can hardly feed himself on $21,000, every $1 he loses gambling is actually someone in his family going hungry or a rent not being paid, or an electric bill. Or a crime he has to commit to get it back. In short: total misery. If an American loses $1, no big deal...he can afford to lose it. So, there is no racism here. Just poverty. Bahamians cannot afford to gamble. As simple as that. The government is right in trying to prevent them. When you can afford it, by all means, lose as much as you want.

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Dawes 4 years, 2 months ago

Residents of lyford, old fort and Albany may or may not be Bahamian. However whatever they are they are not allowed to gamble in the casino, and i will agree with John that many do (though not sure on the racism part as to why they are able to, more due to many black Bahamian's do not think white people live here).

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OldFort2012 4 years, 2 months ago

The bit where "residents" are not allowed into casinos has not been observed or enforced, ever. How is a casino to know if they are residents or not? Impossible to tell. If asked for a passport, they produce it. Does it say they are residents? No. But this is irrelevant. Bahamians should not be allowed to gamble until they have built an economy and income which is not based on the exploitation of their fellow citizens and the misery and bondage that produces. This is a just tax and has nothing to do with racism but with what is good for the citizens of this country. You might as well argue that a tax on KFC is "racist" because black people like chicken too much. It it's bad for you, tax it. End of story. No racism anywhere.

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Dawes 4 years, 2 months ago

If you come to live in the Bahamas as a resident then follow our laws. If you want to live some where you can gamble go live there. It is not right to put the onus on Bahamians to decide if you are allowed to gamble or not. At the entrance to every casino is a sign saying residents are not allowed to, so don't .

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tetelestai 4 years, 2 months ago

So what else should the government "prevent"? Should the government prevent the "average Bahamian" (your words) from buying alcohol? Because, after all, that could lead to drunkedness, which is against God? As an average Bahamian, I have a proclivity to spend all my paychecks on fine dining. Should the government limit how much of my disposable income I can spend at Olives? Better yet, as an average Bahamian, I like to waste my money on buying cars. Should the government limit the amount of cars an average Bahamian can buy? While we are at it, can you please define what "afford it" means? Is it 5% of my gross income? 10%? OldFort, you have every right to not support or like gambling, for whatever reason you choose. If I were younger, I would literally enlist in the RBDF to protect your right to feel a certain way about gambling (or any other issue for that matter). However, you, or no one else for that matter, has the right to impose on anyone, average Bahamian or not, how to spend their money (as long as it is legal, which whether you like it or not, gambling, at the moment is legal). And, incidentally, we are all adults here, or so I hope. There is no need to accuse people of being "cretins" just because they disagree with your view point. Maturity and democracy means that we can respectfully and maturely disagree.

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OldFort2012 4 years, 2 months ago

Yes, they do have a right to impose on you taxes for things that are deemed bad for you. It's called an Act of Parliament. It happens everywhere in the civilised world. If the majority thought that fine dining was bad for you, they could and should tax it. The majority of right thinking people deem gambling to be bad and therefore should be taxed within an inch of its life. When the average Bahamian has an income of $50,000, we can relax the rules.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 4 years, 2 months ago

To answer your question John, I sing for my fellow Bahamian and country. Nothing more.

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Dawes 4 years, 2 months ago

Government needs to make the Webshops publish their audited Financials, then we can see what is really happening. Whilst i don't really believe the Government would do anything if it went underground it was a silly threat to make, as it seems more like a mafia move (your place won't be broken up if you pay what i say). In reality i doubt the webshops would go underground as they are now legal. By going underground they run the risk of one day a government dealing with them.

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John 4 years, 2 months ago

I don’t stand to support the Web Shops. I stand for equality and justice in this country. My vote is just as good as yours and I have as much right to voice my opinion as you do. And the Black populace of The Bahamas will no longer stand around and allow persons like you, mudder-Tak slick, to build a dam across their economic opportunities while choking them to death with the bulk of takes. The yellow shirts came off and the red ones can also fade.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 4 years, 2 months ago

The numbers bosses you work for John are evil purveyors of racism in an effort to manipulate minds made weak by the constant spinning of numbers aimed at emptying their customers pockets and filling their own.

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tetelestai 4 years, 2 months ago

John, do not attempt to have a legitimate discussion with Mudda over this issuer. He/She is too blinded by their own opinions to have a sensible discourse. So, in the end, Mudda just resorts to the petulant and childish diatribe of accusing everyone of being "stupid" and "singing for their supper" if their view is against what he/she espouses. Don't waste your time with anyone that cant reason without resorting to insults and illogical nonsense...Mudda must be related to Trump.

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TalRussell 4 years, 2 months ago

Ma Comrades, are you the 'PeoplePublic' so assured you knows what's really going on between Numbers man's and Imperial red cabinet....cause past points you never know what is lurking behind secretiveness red cabinet walls... having snatched 12% VAT right out pockets 91,409 voting red shirts 10th May 2017.A Imperial red cabinet with a loud bark but no bite.... excepting when aimed brungs economic pain to a nation's PeoplePublic - begging imperial reds- please in name Jesus - stop with the insane borrowing even more Billions Dollars.

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DDK 4 years, 2 months ago

Comrade, you, in your unique way, are talking real sense!

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Sickened 4 years, 2 months ago

Tal I haven't read your posts for many weeks now but I decided to try once again. I copied and pasted your text in Google Translate and got nothing. Can you please let me know your language so that I may translate it and perhaps enjoy your input? Thanks dready!

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BahamasForBahamians 4 years, 2 months ago

Underground does not suggest illegal..

They can work around the current framework very easily using technology..

Business could be setup in a country where it is actually legitimate and the government isn't seeking to tax them out of the business - places like the Isles of Mann would welcome them.

The services offered could be accessible to Bahamians just like eBay or amazon (whose actually servers aren't domiciled in The Bahamas, headquarters are not in The Bahamas, and pay very little to any Bahamian taxes while making millions from the Bahamian consumer) ..free from the bureaucratic war going on here and central bank exchange controls.

Thats what the AG and his gang of idiots in Cabinet don't want..

it means the number boys would essentially be making the same money - evading all Bahamian taxes while hiring minimal if any staff and not braking any law.

And it negates grounds for any criminal prosecution

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OldFort2012 4 years, 2 months ago

Sounds plausible only to people who don't know how the international banking system works. They would need to open bank accounts to transfer the money. No bank would accept them as clients and any that did would be entered by law enforcement within minutes. See what has happened to all the online gambling operations. They are desperate. Their accounts have been closed and no bank will accept them. They have money but cannot pay any of their bills legitimately. They are resorting to crypto payments with very shady operators and paying massive fees for doing so.

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Sickened 4 years, 2 months ago

They would also need central bank approval to have overseas accounts. Once it is discovered that the bahamian funds being gambled are going overseas then they should be screwed.

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BahamasForBahamians 4 years, 2 months ago

Both of your comments are Bull$ht.

I assume you are both senior citizens sitting on your ass looking at the world as it USED to be.

If you purchase an item from eBay or Amazon - does it require Central Bank approval? No.. No matter the amount.

E-purchases have effectively and legally rendered exchange controls obsolete.

Secondly, there is no bank account required in 2018 for online gaming.

When you sign up - you purchase credits in your e-wallet similar to making a purchase on AMAZON or EBAY ... and your earnings can be collected from a prepaid credit card, cheque, deposit through paypal or another e-processor.

The 1990's impediments you guys describe is what the government would want you to believe in 2018... There are no restrictions.. Its the same way Going Places travel is now forced to complete with Expedia - while Expedia pays no taxes to the Bahamian government and it does not require a customer to "enter a bank" or "create a bank account" to execute a transaction.

You morons need a lesson on technology.

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banker 4 years, 2 months ago

I take a less emotional, more pragmatic point of view. The webshops have had their day in the sun. They will be taxed to death. The operators have already made their millions. The government will horn in because they are short of cash. However, it is human nature to gamble -- in one fell stroke to be rich.

So what's the next move in this evolutionary cycle? Online crypto-gambling. There are already many offerings about to arise. I predict that Bahamians will be gambling with crypto-currencies in much fairer games with larger prizes than with what the pathetic Bahamian webshops have been fleecing the desperate public. The added advantage is that Bahamians won't be stuck with Bahamian dollars.

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realitycheck242 4 years, 2 months ago

Online Crypto Gambling locally would cause a non gambler like me to get in the ball game. but i think if the web shops are forced to go this route, Their patron count would be substantially reduced initially...Bahamians like their cash in hand

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TalRussell 4 years, 2 months ago

Ma Comrades, on the very day the red shirts turned themselves into colony's Imperial crown ministers there were (7) Numbers Houses licenses on books. Seven remain on books with (2) inactive... yet all we hear about are Comrades Craig and Sabas....Why is that.... Likes why not release revenue amounts, taxes collected, branches and active employees all five... Will the monopoly protection prevent further licencing stay put...... What's going on two defunct licencees... And who ALL are the Shareholders in the Seven licenses...Any red MP's, Senators, Chairman's or family members or business associates? Why the guessing at total number employees when they ALL should be on file over at national insurance?

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TalRussell 4 years, 2 months ago

Ma Comrades wanting profiteer online gambling, needs only learn operate likes the Porn industry have successfully operated years without government... Don't you thinks that if you can be brought satisfying climax from hundreds or thousands miles away - so can you fulfill your gambling impulses from any one number untouchable foreign spots around globe.

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Gotoutintime 4 years, 2 months ago

I left the Bahamas some time ago but I was of the impression that all web shops ( numbers shops) were illegal--Was any Law formally passed legalizing this activity??

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realitycheck242 4 years, 2 months ago

They legal now .....do a tribune "web shop" search and get up to date.

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John 4 years, 2 months ago

It would be an insult to Donald Trump to say he is related to Mudda tak sic. And the more he tries to defend not taxing the casinos but put quadrupled taxes on the webshops confirms this is racism at its finest. And then to say that Americans incomes average $54,000 compared to Bahamians &21,000 is more grounds to tax the casinos more, not less. When a Bahamian walks into a casino in Atlantic City or Las Vegas of Hard Rock in Florida, he/she is treated like everyone else in those establishments. But in his own hom he is discriminated against by being legally prevented from gambling. It is raw discrimination. And to now tax the web shops more confirms that someone wants to keep disparity between the working class and the ‘elite ‘. Economic dive that transcends to differences between black and white. There are poor folk in America too, but no one tells them they cannot gamble in Hard Rock or buy lottery tickets. They are the ones with the greatest hope of winning and unfortunately also lose the greatest in their income, if gambling is their vice. And when persons like Carl Bethel continue to follow the advice of people who want to heap taxes on Bahoand allow foreigners to ride free, then the national debt will continue to grow, the worker class will continue to increase and the distance between the haves and the have nots will continue to widen. Any Jackson can see that foreigners are continuing to come here and gobble up the assets of this country. So one day the Bahamian flag 🇧🇸 May have to be lowered permanently... and for what?

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Well_mudda_take_sic 4 years, 2 months ago

There you go again John singing for your supper as you try to play that tired old race card on behalf of the numbers bosses. The numbers bosses, and possibly you as one of their trolling gophers, are the "Haves" while your poor web shop gambling and spinning customers are the "Have Nots." Trust us John, we get the picture and need no help from you in telling us who exactly is responsible for the ever increasing divide between the "Haves" and "Have Nots". Sebas Bastian already thinks he's PM and Craig Flowers is happy to be his DPM with Alfred Sears as their very own AG. My-oh-my, just say it ain't so!

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sheeprunner12 4 years, 2 months ago

Tackle them AG .......... and put them in a concussion while you're at it ......... BOL

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John 4 years, 2 months ago

The war on drugs, the war on terrorism same red necks different , same song. Apparently all the money and wealth belongs to them.

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SP 4 years, 2 months ago

Why is it that ATTORNEY General Carl Bethel cannot “vigorously address” underground gambling activities in the Haitian community?

Haitians have had huge thriving underground numbers and chicken fight gambling rackets for decades and nobody says a peep about it!

Why do Haitians always get a free pass to break all our laws with impunity?

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sheeprunner12 4 years, 2 months ago

SP ....... It beats me ...... $100 million reparations to Haiti every year from The Bahamas ........... and we wonder why we are in $8Billion national debt???

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hrysippus 4 years, 2 months ago

On this page it is sometimes hard to distinguish irony from stupidity.

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hrysippus 4 years, 2 months ago

Who is more trustworthy, Carl Wiltshire Bethel or the starving wolf in your bed that has promised not to eat you if you fall asleep? Do you remember the chief of police Elliston Greenslade promising to close the web shops down within two weeks? That was two years ago, he lied to us all and was rewarded by being made ambassador to the UK. Perry the shiftless shuffler almost broke the country but is living large on a pension of $250,000 per year paid for by the taxes we are made to pay. I continue to pray to God to punish theses evildoers..

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