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Gaming and Crime Bill Pass in the House

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The Bahamas, 19th Sept 2014 (Bahamas Information Services) – It is official. Webshop gaming in The Bahamas is no longer an underground industry but a fully regulated $600 million component of both the domestic tourism and financial services sector product offerings. Late Monday evening, 25 Parliamentarians voted yes, seven voted no and five were absent at the third and final reading, committal and vote on the historic Gaming Bill and attendant regulations that promised to transform the gaming industry, both land based and online.

Defending the government’s decision to legalize and regulate this industry in the best interest of The Bahamas and responding to his critics, Prime Minister Christie said that it was important not to “attribute to one side sin, corrupt practices, when they are motivated to do….what all of the agencies of the world would reasonably expect them to do in the circumstances.” The Prime Minister was referring to concerns raised by the Governor of the Central Bank and the Compliance Commission about the unregulated gaming industry. These concerns were raised after the January 28, 2012 gaming referendum.

The Prime Minister was emphatic in his position that “no government faced with the information this government was faced with…could arrogate unto itself the right to say, ‘let’s ignore that.’ This now… becomes a major matter for the Minister of Finance and Prime Minister of The Bahamas and that’s me.” The Prime Minister was referring to an external review and national risk assessment of The Bahamas’ economy by an anti-money laundering taskforce from the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) scheduled for 2015. The numbers industry must be a part of this risk assessment said the Prime Minister and the government will liaise with all financial industries in the country to determine areas of vulnerability.

“Fostering growth, transparency and social responsibility comes as The Bahamas faces in 2015 a more thorough external review by CFATF than it has ever faced before. A review as to risk and areas of vulnerability in our economy” said the Prime Minister, referring to an October 2013 article published by one of the dailies about this extensive and thorough national audit of the country’s economy by the CATF in 2015. Legalizing and regulating the numbers industry was the correct and reasoned policy decision for any responsible government, given the circumstances facing The Bahamas argued Prime Minister Christie.

The Prime Minister went further in hammering home the principal of probity which is the fundamental cornerstone of any credible gaming dispensation:

“The most fundamental cornerstone of any credible gaming dispensation anywhere in the world can be distilled into a single word. That word is “probity”. Probity focuses on establishing that any given person who seeks to be involved in the gaming industry, whether as a regulator or as a licence holder, is fit and proper to do so, and moreover remains fit and proper on an ongoing basis. The currency of probity is therefore information concerning the relevant individual, ranging from information regarding the personal history of that person, or business history, where that person is a corporate entity, to information relating to the financial history, capacity and dealings of that person, as well as criminal history and associations with other persons.” The Prime Minister was confident that a fully regulated Bahamian gaming industry would pass the universally acceptable credibility litmus test of “probity.”

Turning his attention to the taxes, fees, penalties and social and community contributions with respect to gaming houses, the Prime Minister had this to say:

1. “As provided in section 85 subsection (16) of the Gaming Bill, after making a full and frank disclosure of all turnover and gross profit generated by the conduct of their businesses as defined in the Business Licence Act, for a period of six years for businesses which were in operation for six years or more, or from the date of start up for those operations who were in business for a lesser period than six years, make payment in full of:

(i) All fees payable under the Business Licence Act for the review period, to the extent that any turnover or gross profits generated by the conduct of such business had not been disclosed.

(ii) All gaming taxes which would have been payable by that business had such business been licenced under the Gaming Act, calculated at the prescribed rate commencing on 1st July, 2014.

(iii) A penalty in the amount of

(a) $350,000 in respect of a business with a gross turnover of less than five million dollars; and

(b) $750,000 in respect of a business with a gross turnover of less than give million dollars.

2. Payment of the licence fees set out in Regulations 49-55 of The Gaming House Operation Regulations, 2014

3. As prescribed in Regulation 57 of the Gaming House Operator Regulations 2014, payment of gaming taxes whichever should be the greater of —

(a) 11% of taxable revenue

(b) 25% of earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization.

4. Regulation 57 of the Gaming House Operator Regulations 2014 also provides that the tax should be subject to review—

(a) During the transitional period following the receipt of the RFP and audited financial statements;

(b) At such time as the Minister may otherwise direct.

5. In accordance with Regulation 4 of the Gaming House Operator Regulations, 2014 the RFP may require gaming house operators to make monetary contributions of a minimum of 1% for corporate social investments initiatives and 1%for community improvement.”

Amended Crime Bills passed in the House
The compendium of crime bills intended to improve the administration of justice was passed in the House on Wednesday, 17th September 2014. They were:
· Bail Amendment Act
· Coroners Amendment Act
· Evidence Amendment Act
· Abolition of the Mandatory Minimum Sentence

Under the amended Bail Act, the burden is now on the bail applicant to prove why the court should grant bail and the court must now take into account the safety of the victim in its consideration to grant bail.

Under the amended Coroners Act, the Coroner is empowered to make homicide findings. The amended Evidence Act basically allows a witness to provide testimony via live television link. The conditions are when a witness is on another island; when being present in court creates fear and distress on the witness and when the court of trial considers it appropriate on its own motion.

The minimum mandatory sentences were abolished for possession of drugs, firearms and ammunition and judges are given judicial discretion in each case. Recently, Justice Jon Isaacs ruled that a 4-year mandatory minimum sentence for drug possession with the intent to supply was unconstitutional.

In passing
The Referendum date delayed to 2015; the CBTUC called off strike and returned to work this past Monday amid continuing negations with the government and the General Education Diploma program (GED) was launched by the government this week through a partnership between Atlantic College and the Urban Renewal Commission.

The Antiquities, Monuments and Museums Corporation (AMMC) and the Bahamas Mortgage Corporation (BMC) both inked new labour agreements with the Bahamas Public Service Union; new immigration rules announced in the House and the once stolen and returned Bahamian Iguanas are released to the wild.

The Clifton Heritage Authority will host the media this evening at the Hilton; Bimini gets a new ferry passenger port and more job opportunities; Prime Minister Christie tours the Grand Bahama Shipyard today and the HMBS Leon Livingstone Smith, the third of nine new patrol vessels for the RBDF to be commissioned at 6:30 pm this evening at the Kelly Dock.


Elcott Coleby
Deputy Director
Bahamas Information Services
326-5833
477-7006

Magnetic Media is a Telly Award winning multi-media company specializing in creating compelling and socially uplifting TV and Radio broadcast programming as a means for advertising and public relations exposure for its clients.

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GBPA Statement from Ian Rolle, President

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Re:  GBPA’s Response to fire in the International Bazaar

 

#TheBahamas, August 10, 2022 – The Grand Bahama Port Authority is aware of the recent fire at the International Bazaar.

The GBPA has engaged, and continues to engage, with operators of the International Bazaar, which include representatives of the Bazaar Association and several property owners, so that we can continue demolition exercises on the dilapidated structures and buildings.

The GBPA is acutely aware of the need to demolish derelict structures within the International Bazaar for the safety of all businesses and visitors. We have performed demolitions in the past at our own cost, most recently in February 2022 when we, in partnership with owners, demolished fire-damaged buildings in the Oriental Section. We have also written to numerous property owners of dilapidated structures over the years to sensitize them to the need to repair or demolish their buildings.

In addition, we have engaged the Government of the Bahamas in advance discussions to approve our requested amendments of the Building and Sanitary bylaws, which would enable GBPA to execute more demolitions in a timely manner and recoup the associated costs.

With the requested bylaw amendments in place, GBPA can continue to make consistent efforts to address the remainder of derelict buildings in the International Bazaar and other dilapidated structures within the city.

The GBPA itself has never owned any part of the International Bazaar but has historically subsidized the Bazaar for many years when owners were no longer maintaining its communal areas.

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Beneath the Waves’ summer camp inspires young Bahamians to become stewards of the environment

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#TheBahamas, August 10, 2022 – While the waters near Great Exuma are renowned for their unmatched beauty, last weekend, more than 40 students spent a day with Beneath the Waves learning the deeper value of the marine ecosystems that surround their islands and act as a bedrock for the Bahamian economy and way of life.

As participants in the non-profit’s summer camp, the young students learned about mangrove and coral reef habitats and the many species that live among them.

They heard about some of Beneath the Waves’ research, including studies of sharks, seagrass and blue carbon, and research methods like underwater video surveys.

Coral Vita Conservancy, which has been working relentlessly to restore coral reefs off Grand Bahama, sent team member Joe Oliver , Director of Restoration Operations, to assist with the camp and provide in-depth information on corals in The Bahamas.

Team ECCO, a North Carolina-based ocean education organization, also provided in-depth lessons on invertebrates and fish.

Long after the taste of ice cream at the end-of-day party has faded, campers will remember learning how to tag a lifelike shark. And they’ll wear their camp t-shirts with pride, remembering this is the day they learned to value the water all around them and what lies beneath the waves.

Eleven-year-old twin sisters Kassidy and Kaylee Burrows described the camp as a highlight of their summer vacation.

“We had a lot of fun,” said Kassidy. “And we learned all about sponges, the water, mangroves, coral reefs — how they protect animals and how they protect the shore — and also about animals themselves, aquatic animals, for example, sea anemones, corals, sponges and sharks.”

Kassidy was especially enthused to share her experience with helping to plant new mangroves.

“We found out how mangrove seeds can actually disperse into the water,” she said.

“And I thought they were going to be small seeds, but, in my opinion, they looked like asparagus kind of.

“We also got to go in the water and plant new mangroves.”

Beneath the Waves’ scientists have been studying The Bahamas’ waters for more than a decade, having helped with the creation and management of conservation policies, including the legislation that made the country’s waters a shark sanctuary in 2011.

The non-governmental organization knows that in continuing efforts to protect The Bahamas’ greatest asset, its natural environment, community buy-in is vital.

And in that context, the value of helping young Bahamians gain these kinds of hands-on experiences and lessons, ones they’ll undoubtedly carry with them through life, can’t be overstated.

Kaylee Burrows is already brainstorming the ways she can apply what she learned in her future career.

While the mangroves piqued her sister’s interest, Kaylee said she was fascinated by coral reefs and the important role they play on a global scale, though she noted they don’t seem to be sufficiently appreciated.

“I learned that The Bahamas has some of the biggest coral reefs in the world,” she said. “We actually put pieces of coral on a pipe to help build a platform for the coral. The reason I chose coral reefs over all of the topics is because we the people of the Bahamas, don’t even recognize how important our islands are. These coral reefs are very beneficial to the whole world.”

Kaylee said she hopes to one day become a veterinarian and an author.

“As a vet, I can help not just land animals, but marine animals too,” she said. “As an author, I can write books on marine biology. I think this experience helped with my future career, and I’m forever grateful.”

Beneath the Waves Managing Director Jamie Fitzgerald said plans are underway to make the camp an annual event.

“We look forward to being able to work more closely with local schools in the islands we frequent, such as Exuma and Nassau, to develop educational materials around sharks and marine science, and to foster opportunities for internships and future careers for any aspiring Bahamian marine biologists,” Fitzgerald said.

 

Photo Captions: 

Header: Hands-on experience – Exuma students planting mangroves with the help of research scientists from Beneath the Waves  — just one of the many memorable moments from the non-profit’s summer camp that was held on July 23. (Photos courtesy of Beneath the Waves)

1st insert: Learning about coral — With the help of experts from Coral Vita, a Grand Bahama-based organization working to restore reefs near the island, students built plaforms for coral. (Photos courtesy of Beneath the Waves)

2nd insert: More to come  – Camp leaders and participants posed with the inflatable shark, as the first of what is hoped to be many Beneath the Waves summer camps came to an end. (Photos courtesy of Beneath the Waves)

 

Release: Beneath the Waves

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Caribbean Rising: Regional Heads of Government Meet in The Bahamas Aug 16-17 to discuss Caribbean position on Climate Change Mitigation

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#TheBahamas, August 5, 2022 – The Bahamas will host the first Regional Meeting of the Heads of Government of the Caribbean in preparation for COP27 in Nassau, The Bahamas on August 16-17, 2022.

The inaugural event is being introduced by the Government of The Bahamas with the aim of devising a regional position on climate change mitigation ahead of COP 27 which will take place in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt November 6-20, 2022.

Invited participants include the Head of State from the following countries: Antigua and Barbuda, Anguilla,

Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Montserrat, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago and Turks and Caicos.

The Government of The Bahamas intends to establish the meeting as an annual event and will seek to have it instituted as a regular meeting on calendar of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Convention (UNFCCC).

“The Bahamas is introducing this conference as we seek to get results in the climate change fight,” Prime Minister Hon. Philip Davis, Prime Minister of The Bahamas said ahead of the talks.

“The Bahamas, along with the region, has lobbied year after year, meeting after meeting, as we sought for the world to acknowledge our vulnerable position.”

“This meeting will position the Caribbean region to take control of our fate and present a unified position to the world at COP27,” Prime Minister Davis added.

The meeting is also intended to establish a Caribbean response exclusive of the conventional Latin

America-Caribbean pairing in order to better reflect common geographical and geo-political issues of Caribbean states.

“What we’ve been lacking regionally is a strategy that would aid us in our negotiation process when we go to the conferences of the parties referred to as COPs,” says Rochelle Newbold, Special Advisor on Climate Change and Environmental Matters and Climate Tsar in the Office of the Prime Minister in The Bahamas.

“This year will be COP number 27 and, as a region, we have never put forward a strategy document or an intent of how we want to deal with the issues that we face within the region collectively,” Newbold added.

The conference agenda will also focus on renewable energy, energy security, climate adaptation, climate financing, loss and damage due to tropical weather systems and establishing a framework for the sale of carbon credits.

Delegates attending COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland in December 2021 signed off on a global climate agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and counter global warming by limiting the temperature rise on Earth to a 1.5 degrees Celsius threshold.

The global warming phenomenon has been linked to more frequent and aggressive hurricanes in the Caribbean, which have subjected the region to billions of dollars in damage and bound countries to burdensome loan commitments.

According to the Assessment of the Effects and Impacts of Hurricane Dorian in The Bahamas report issued by the Inter-American Development Bank in March 2022,       damage and losses from Hurricane Dorian amounted to US$3.4 billion, a quarter of the country’s GDP.

A heat wave rolling across the United States and Europe is also being attributed to rising temperatures.

The UK recorded temperatures of over 40°C (104°F) for the first time in July 2022, according to local forecasters.

“We know that if we reach that 1.5°C and we exceed it, everything changes for everybody. While land-locked countries and large continents like South America will experience a change, island-states will experience that change three and four-fold.”

“With this meeting we will have all of those who face the same threat level sitting down together, discussing options, considering what is being suggested and how realistic this will be. For us, this is a fundamental thing that we should have been doing a long time ago,” Newbold said.

At the conclusion of the meeting, a Chair’s Summary will be made available detailing the scope of the discussions as well as key messages and ideas that emerge. Additionally, the region plans to launch an initiative at COP27 to advance advocacy efforts on behalf of Caribbean States.

 

Photo Caption: During the weekly Press Briefing, at his Office, on August 4, 2022, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance the Hon. Philip Davis announced that The Bahamas will host the Regional Caribbean Heads of Government Meeting, 16-17 August, 2022 at Baha Mar Resort.  (BIS Photos/Eric Rose)

 

For Press Inquiries:

Clint Watson, Press Secretary

Office of The Prime Minister

Commonwealth of The Bahamas clintwatson@bahamas.gov.bs

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