Island Luck calls for end to ‘insane’ contradiction
By Scieska Adderley
Guardian Business Reporter
The head of a major “web shop” is applauding the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) for its pledge to address the gambling industry, arguing that regulation will add revenue to the public treasury.
Sebas Bastian, CEO at Island Luck, said the unregulated gambling industry already generates millions for the local economy each year. Island Luck, he added, pays out million for salaries, rentals and to the National Insurance Board (NIB) for contributions, contributing $20 million to the local economy.
Island Luck and its more than 3,000 employees already contribute to The Bahamas, and to deem the operation illegal is “insane”, according to Bastian.
“The industry cannot continue to only be recognized as legal when we give out to the community, pay taxes, business license fees, national insurance and [when we are] taken to the labor board. Yet, we are deemed as illegal on the other hand? To me, that’s insane,” he said.
In last week’s Speech from the Throne, it was revealed that the PLP government would hold a referendum for the Bahamian people to decide whether a national lottery should be instituted and whether web shop type gaming should be decriminalized.
The issue is controversial in The Bahamas. Some argue that if properly regulated, legal gaming could be a driver for the economy. However, the Christian community stands against any move to legalize any form of gambling for Bahamians and legal residents. Visitors can gamble legally in The Bahamas.
Winston Rolle, CEO of the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation (BCCEC), told Guardian Business that if the national lottery and/or web shops are properly regulated, a higher level of tax should be paid to the public treasury by the sector.
“In regulating it, persons should also be looking to ensure that funds generated from it are properly allocated and channeled into specific areas where there are significant economic voids,” Rolle explained.
“My concern would be over the proper structure and regulation so that we are setting up a regime that provides adequate tax returns and that whatever funds that are raised will be utilized to the benefit of the Bahamian people.”
Rolle said that at this point, Bahamians are kidding themselves viewing gambling as being illegal.
Another leader in the web shop business was contacted by Guardian Business on the issue of legalizing the sector. However, the source declined to comment at this time, saying he will meet with the prime minister shortly on the issue.
For Bastian’s part, he said there should be a recognition that the industry has a positive impact on Bahamians.
“For example, when the Atlantis resort decided to downsize its staff, we at Island Luck employed most of those displaced workers. Currently, we have more than 3,000 people employed,” he said.
“We payout more than $6 million in rental property, $4 million in national insurance contributions per annum and more than $10 million is spent on utilities like the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) and Cable Bahamas, along with supplies like paper. The funds generated are spent locally.”
May 30, 2012