We are now living a society that is upside down.
I am just off the phone with a former employee. She told me that she was arrested March 3, 2014 for an outstanding traffic ticket from 2005. The arrest occurred at 10:30 a.m. she was put into a cell and released at 6 p.m.
I agree wholeheartedly that if you break the law you should pay. However. let’s get the right perspective. Web shops have been declared illegal by the courts. In response to a referendum-like poll, the people rejected legalizing web shops. And yet, operations continue unabated. If anything, there is an expansion in progress.
The governor of the central bank states that the money acquired though web shops is akin to money laundering. What are we to do?
The Lotteries and Gaming Act provides the government the means to legitimize web shops. There is an opportunity to put the Robin Hood approach on a correct foundation.
The benefit of this move would be the collection of substantial income for the country. Whether true or false, I am told that each leader of a web shop operation nets between $1 million and $1.5 million per week. Do the math for say four major operators. I say at least 50 percent of that money should go to government. Imagine $100 million a year going into the Public Treasury.
There should be tough but fair licensing requirements just like the ones imposed upon Bahamian casinos. Quite frankly, in today’s circumstances there are no differences in operations except that net proceeds for web shops end up in the pockets of a few.
Our overarching theme should be “Gamble to Give Back”. In the U.S. “of the states (plus D.C) that have lotteries, 37 funnel proceeds toward education” (Men’s Health). Why can’t we do the same? We claim to live under the rule of law. Are we really doing that?
One final point: There should be a natural progression to tax reform. Let’s get $100 million a year from the illegal operations and then push hard for VAT or some other form of taxation. I feel that Bahamians will feel better about going forward.
We have a chance to get it right. Let’s do it.
By: J. Barrie Farrington