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Lawyer points to ‘ridiculous’ provisions in Gaming Bill

Guardian Senior Reporter

Published: Oct 22, 2013

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Attorney Wayne Munroe said yesterday “it is utterly ridiculous” that the new Gaming Bill does not prevent Bahamians from gambling on websites that are based outside the country but will prevent Bahamian web shop owners from operating these websites locally.

Munroe said many provisions in the Gaming Bill, which was tabled in the House of Assembly last Wednesday, create a double standard in favor of foreign investors while marginalizing Bahamian businessmen.

He referenced a provision in the bill called a restricted interactive gaming license. The provision says that only a current gaming license holder may apply for and be granted a restricted interactive gaming license.

An operator with this license can offer gaming to citizens of permitted foreign jurisdictions or people on the licensed premises who are not lawfully precluded from gaming.

Munroe said although the bill places restrictions on who can offer online gambling through locally managed websites, it does not outlaw online gaming in its entirety.

“So for instance I can flip open my tablet, log on to Pokerstars.com which is domiciled in the Isle of Man, I could engage in playing poker for money and placing bets and the bill doesn’t purport to outlaw that.

“It begs the question as to why you are withholding business opportunities from Bahamians because you are not preventing the consumption of the product by Bahamians.”

He added: “Even after the bill is passed into law, I will be able to game with anyone I see fit so long as the website is not operated, run and managed from The Bahamas.”

In January, the government held a referendum asking voters if they supported the regulation and taxation of web shops and the creation of a national lottery.

Most of the people who voted said no to both questions.

A number of web shop owners commenced legal action after the vote to stop the government from shutting them down.

They have contended that there is no law preventing them from engaging in their business.

Munroe, who represents some of those operators, said he has told his clients to abandon their local operations and exist solely on the internet, with websites that are based overseas.

“If you were to close every web shop, Island Games’ website would still be up, Island Luck’s website would still be up, FML’s website would still be up. . .so you could decrease your overhead without decreasing your revenues.

“The only thing is most of these fellows, or all of them, have a fundamental problem in putting tons of people out of work.”

The bill that was tabled last week did not include several controversial elements that were a part of a draft document.

The draft bill would have allowed permanent residents and work permit holders to gamble in casinos in The Bahamas.

The bill that was tabled in the House of Assembly prohibits gaming for any person who is ordinarily resident in The Bahamas; is the holder of a permanent residence certificate; is the holder of a work permit or is the spouse of any of those people.

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