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Gomez touts importance of Gaming Bill

Guardian Senior Reporter

Published: Oct 29, 2013

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Minister of State for Legal Affairs Damian Gomez said yesterday the debate on the Gaming Bill should not be muddled with the argument over whether Bahamians should be permitted to gamble legally in The Bahamas.

“I want to stress that we are competing with the world and not with ourselves,” said Gomez while speaking at the opening of the Caribbean Gaming Forum at Atlantis resort.

“The discussion of citizens gaming is a completely different discussion than the one we are having concerning our tourism product. To suggest that they are the same is grossly misleading.”

Gomez said the Gaming Bill is aimed at increasing casino revenue and related taxes while stimulating more jobs in the tourism industry.

He said the long-awaited reforms to the gaming legislation would make the country’s gaming sector more competitive internationally.

Gomez said the government has seen a steady decline in taxes from casinos over a 10-year period, which underscores the need to revamp the legislative framework for the industry.

“It was estimated last year that government tax revenues have declined by 29.4 percent over a 10-year period,” Gomez said.

“When the government experiences a 30 percent decline in taxes, it is time to take a closer look at the performance of a sector, it becomes necessary to re-evaluate the needs of the sector and it becomes critically important to make all of the necessary adjustments to recapture that lost revenue and to improve tax collection.”

He noted that hotels with casinos “create economic zones”, which lead to increased opportunities for indirect jobs. Expanding the gaming offerings of local casinos will also increase visitor arrivals and keep guests coming back, he added.

“We must remember that The Bahamas is a very small country and that each dollar spent in this country is a dollar earned by the people of this country,” Gomez said.

The Gaming Bill was tabled in the House of Assembly nearly two weeks ago.

Some observers have criticized the government over provisions in the bill that would allow casinos to offer mobile and Internet gaming, while preventing web shops from legally doing so.

Last week, Prime Minister Perry Christie suggested that there is no consensus in his party over controversial elements of the bill.

“The issue of discrimination will come up, and I’m saying right now we will deal with it,” Christie said.

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