By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Deputy Chief Reporter
THE Minnis administration has no intention of forgiving any of the unpaid taxes owed by gaming operators, according to Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar yesterday.
Even as negotiations continue between the four web shop operators who are considered non-compliant and government officials, the minister issued the warning, insisting that at some point they would have to conform to what is required.
He said currently three operators were fulfilling their obligations, accounting for 70 percent of government’s projections.
“We’re negotiating with the remaining four,” the minister with responsibility for gaming said yesterday. He was asked about the issue during a press conference at the Ministry of Tourism’s Bay Street offices where it was announced that a voluntary separation package agreement was finalised with managers of the Grand Lucayan hotel in Grand Bahama.
“We can negotiate all we want but at the end of the day they will have to become compliant with the tax that’s due. We are not in any way going to forgive any of the debt, so we’ll continue to negotiate.”
Asked pointedly what would be the result of operators continuing not to pay the gaming taxes, the minister said: “There are remedies which I’d prefer not to discuss now.”
Last week Finance Minister K Peter Turnquest, while encouraging operators to pay what is owed to the state, said there was some delay in collection as one operator was completely compliant, another only partially compliant and then some had not complied.
However, the Bahamas Gaming Operators Association released a statement hitting back at his comments.
It read: “Currently, there are three operators that have paid all of their outstanding taxes, which represents 70 percent of the operator taxes due. We are uncertain as to why the minister of finance would make such a public statement, that he knows or ought to know is demonstratively false.”
It continued: “As for patron tax on lotto winnings, initially a tax on patron deposits, gaming operators could not lawfully begin collecting these taxes on April 1 as the government intended.
“To implement such a tax, operators’ systems must be modified, internationally tested, certified and approved by the regulator as fit for purpose. Only once that process is completed can the collection of taxes on lotto winnings commence.”