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Attorney Wayne Munroe, who represents a group of web shop owners, said he does not see the logic in closing down web shops for a period of time before they are regularized as it would hurt web shop employees.
"It doesn't make sense from a point of view that, when you close, you terminate people and you have to pay them all their severance packages," said Munroe when contacted for comment.
"Then if you have leases with landlords, what's the position with that? I'm made to understand that the position of the government is that although that may have been floated, it's not being recommended by the gaming consultants."
Tourism Minister Obie Wilchcombe said on Monday the government is determining a period of closure for web shops.
Wilchcombe recommended that web shops be made to close before the regularization period begins. However, he said he has faced some opposition to that.
"The web shop consultants are suggesting that it's not necessary," he said. "We're weighing it right now."
The revised Gaming Bill is expected to soon be tabled in Parliament.
Prime Minister Perry Christie has said that web shop regularization will be retroactive to July 1, though he did not state at what rate they will be taxed.
Munroe represents Island Game, Island Luck, FML Group of Companies, Asue Draw, Whatfall and Chances
He said his clients accept that the regularization process will be "painful".
"My clients accept that the process is going to be painful from the sense that nobody likes to pay money and that the government is looking to come after them with a big stick," he said.
"We'd like to think it's a principled big stick and to demand substantial sums back for the maximum period that the law permits would be a big stick.
"But the closure would make no sense. It would cause pain to employees; it would cause pain to landlords."
Munroe estimated that if web shops were made to close, around 5,000 to 6,000 employees would be impacted.
Attorney General Allyson Maynard-Gibson has also said the government intends to impose a penalty on web shops for revenue generated prior to regularization.
Munroe said while his clients would be upset "because they paid taxes in other jurisdictions" their businesses are regulated in, they are trying to be sensible in the consultative process and do not see such an imposition as a penalty.
"No one is happy to pay taxes," he said.
"People have to understand that the government is being hard in positions it takes with us in this consultative process, but I'd like to think that they are trying to be fair and my clients are trying to be fair and sensible.
"If you look at that proposition that makes sense and could be as a matter of principle, something you could defend."
The government has no choice but to order the closure of web shops, Free National Movement (FNM) Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis said yesterday.
"We live in a county that has laws," said Minnis, after Chief Justice Sir Michael Barnett lifted the conservatory order that prevented police or the government from shutting down web shop gaming.
"The people have spoken, the chief justice has issued a judgment and we expect the laws to be upheld."
Sir Michael discharged a conservatory order that protected web shops from police action.
He said the interlocutory order that attorneys Wayne Munroe and Alfred Sears sought on behalf of their clients (web shop owners) was not granted.
Sears and Jeff Lloyd represent Paradise Games. Munroe represents Island Game, Island Luck, FML, Asue Draw, Whatfall and Chances.
Minnis said the government must now live up to its word.
"The prime minister and the commissioner of police are on record saying that they would carry out the wishes of the people," he said.
"However, the wishes of the people were stopped because of the [conservatory order]...The prime minister was elected by the people to govern the country and carry out the laws of the people; the people would expect him [to act immediately]."
Senior Justice Jon Isaacs granted the conservatory order on January 30, two days after a gambling referendum failed.
The day before, Prime Minister Christie ordered all web shop operators to shut down their gaming operations immediately or face arrest and prosecution.
Minnis said the opposition will be "watching everything closely" to ensure that the Christie administration sticks to that original warning.
During the run-up to the referendum, Minnis called on Bahamians to vote no to the taxation and regularization of web shops and to the establishment of a national lottery.
Minnis criticized the government for its handling of the referendum, adding that the Christie adminstration did not educate the public sufficiently on the issues before the vote.
Sweet Island Gal has set the tune for all C-class sloops this regatta season, when she sailed away with top honors in the annul All-for-One Regatta. The Lady Nathalie swept the B-class division, winning all three races.
The Long Island boat won one of the three races and finished second in the next two. The remaining two races were shared between the Asue Draw Thunderbird and Witty K. Fourth went to Barbarian and Jacob’s Ladder was fifth. In the B-class the Lady Nathalie was the overall winner, Ants Nest was second and the Cobra third.
The All-for-One Regatta which is the first event on the calendar was held at Montagu Beach. Only B and C-class sloops competed. Winning the first race in the ...
The Office of the Attorney General sought to block the continued operations of web shops despite an order from Senior Supreme Court Justice Jon Isaacs in January to prevent a shutdown of the businesses, alleges an affidavit filed recently.
The affidavit filed by attorney Claude Hanna of Munroe & Associates said a group of web shop bosses faced significant delays in trying to get business licenses renewed and some owners have still not yet received licenses.
Hanna said the government, through the Business Licence and Evaluation Section of the Ministry of Finance has sought to adversely affect the business of the web shop owners by delaying licenses.
He said this was an attempt to circumvent the conservatory order issued by Justice Isaacs for the businesses to remain in operation pending the outcome of a substantive court challenge.
The owners filed court action after a majority of people who voted in a referendum voted against the regularization and taxation of web shops and the establishment of a national lottery. They contend that their businesses are operating legally.
Justice Isaacs granted the order the morning after Prime Minister Perry Christie ordered an end to web shop gaming.
Hanna said that in the past, the process of issuing licenses involved submitting an application, paying the required fees and the Business Licence Unit would issue the license in a matter of days.
The longest period of delay in the past has been a week, according to the affidavit.
The affidavit said that this year the web shop owners and or their agents were informed by "servants of the Business Licence Unit" that the Office of the Attorney General (the defendant) has advised the Ministry of Finance to put a halt to licenses being issued to web cafes.
According to Hanna, the matter had to be addressed by Chief Finance and Revenue Officer Joseph Mullings, who circulated a minute paper on March 15, 2013 to all staff about the issuance and renewal of business licenses to web shops.
A copy of the minute paper was filed in court.
It said, "Effective immediately, you can issue new and renewal business licenses to web shops. The only license description will be Internet cafe and Internet related services."
According to the affidavit, the process of getting licenses has been "riddled with hurdles".
The affidavit said Pete Deveaux of Percy Web Cafe reported that after submitting the business license application, paying fees in full and satisfying all other requirements, his company was told by Mullings that he could not issue the license because they were awaiting written confirmation from the Office of the Attorney General.
"It was only after insistent calling that [Deveaux] received the business license on March 27," the affidavit said, adding that some of the other plaintiffs also received licenses last week.
"This has represented a delay that in most cases has been at least three to four times the usual delay in the process."
The affidavit said Whatfall and Asue Draw were still awaiting licenses.
It said, "The plaintiffs (web shop owners) have a history of being fully compliant with all laws and regulations governing their businesses."
The affidavit also said that during the general election campaign and during the referendum campaign members of the Free National Movement (FNM) and their bloggers suggested the web shop owners supported only the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP).
"I am advised by the plaintiffs that it was thereby being suggested that this was done because the PLP had committed to support the plaintiffs," the affidavit said.
"Indeed, much was made during the referendum campaign that the PLP government had a horse in the referendum race."
But the web shop owners have advised that this perception is incorrect, according to the affidavit.
"I am advised that the plaintiffs supported both the PLP and FNM as they always have done," Hanna said.
"If this is disputed they are able to disclose the persons and events together with the amounts that they supported."
The affidavit said the web shop owners met with the government after the general election but are unwilling to disclose the exact contents of these meetings unless it is deemed necessary to do so.
Hanna also said in the affidavit that the need to terminate staff would cause a loss to the plaintiffs "far beyond the financial costs associated with their terminations".
"I am advised by the plaintiffs that they care about the welfare of their employees to the point that they are mentally affected by the prospect of having to terminate persons with whom they have worked closely over the years."
The web shop owners and their attorneys have made an application to have the conservatory order issued by Justice Isaacs extended.
The attorney general is seeking to have that order discharged.
Chief Justice Sir Michael Barnett will today hear arguments from both sides.
Wayne Munroe represents Percy Web Cafe, Island Luck, FML Group of Companies, Asue Draw, Whatfall and Chances.
Former Attorney General Alfred Sears and Jeff Lloyd represent Paradise Games.
Asue Draw is set to open a new branch called 'Asue Draw+Spin' this Saturday on Robinson Road that will offer a range of "new products".
In an advertisement, the web shop company said, "Join the new Asue Draw as we introduce our new products".
While the company does not detail those products, a photo which appears to be the exterior of the "flagship store", shows a large decal depicting sporting events, including basketball, dog and horse racing, hockey, football and baseball.
Inside the store, one of the walls also has a large decal of a card dealer, several cards, chips and a roulette casino table game.
Attorney Wayne Munroe, who was contacted for comment, was asked if Asue Draw is offering new games that would typically be found in a casino.
While he was unable to say what new products will be offered, Munroe said Asue Draw is not offering casino games.
He said any new product offered will come under the online gaming umbrella.
He represents a group of web shops, including Asue Draw.
"It is nothing new apart from what is already happening," he said.
"How you would look at it is [if] you have Hennessy [Cognac], and you have Hennessy Black."
He was referring to the brand of brandy which offers a more aged version of one of its existing products.
Asked what the "spin" referred to in "Asue Draw+Spin", Munroe said he did not know, but speculated it was an advertising strategy.
When pressed on whether the web shop company was offering sports betting, Munroe said he was not aware.
However, he said that service is currently available online via other companies.
"The impression I get from my clients' business model is anything you want to do online that is available you can do," Munroe said.
"Now, if they are saying that they are going to be directing you so you can now access sites that can allow that, then that is not new, that has always been available online."
The government has announced plans to regulate the web shop industry by July 1, despite the "no" vote outcome of the January 28, 2013 gambling referendum.
Asked whether there is any concerns about Asue Draw potentially expanding its gaming products ahead of legislation being passed to regulate the industry, Munroe said expansion at this time may be a good thing.
"The government will decide how it regulates," he said. "It may, in fact, be a good thing that you are going to be showing the government all that can happen online.
"If you show them, they can decide when they regulate, how they are going to regulate."
According to the Asue Draw advertisement, there will be a "prizes and surprises" at the launch.
The Nassau Guardian understands one of the prizes is a new car.
The Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) has not yet fleshed out the details of National Health Insurance (NHI), but its projection to make it a reality within a year is achievable given the groundwork the Christie administration did before it was voted out of office, according to Dr. Perry Gomez, the PLP's candidate for North Andros and the Berry Islands.
Dr. Gomez chaired the Blue Ribbon Commission on National Health Insurance.
In 2004, the commission recommended to then Prime Minister Perry Christie the introduction of compulsory social health insurance as the principal method of healthcare financing for The Bahamas.
The drive toward NHI died when the PLP lost the 2007 election. But it has been resurrected with another election looming.
Dr. Gomez declared at a PLP rally in North Andros a few weeks ago that if the PLP is elected, NHI would be introduced as a matter of priority, within the first year of the new government.
But he admitted to The Nassau Guardian recently that the party has not yet devised specifics or come up with an estimate of what such a plan would cost.
"Nothing has been done as yet as far as I know," said Dr. Gomez when asked about the cost of NHI.
Back when the NHI debate was raging under the Christie administration, the engineers of the controversial proposal estimated that NHI would cost approximately $235 million annually.
But that was at least six years ago. And even then, some critics claimed that figure was way too conservative.
In its Economic Review column published on March 7 in The Nassau Guardian, Colina Financial Advisors Limited (CFAL) projected that based on historical data and future projections, the cost of a national healthcare plan going forward would be in the region of $500 million to $750 million -- equivalent to nearly half of the country's recurrent expenditure.
While Dr. Gomez could not provide any specifics on what the PLP is proposing this time around, he said NHI is "a most important issue".
"The reasons for NHI remain stronger than ever with the downturn of the economy," he said.
"We can't afford not to have it. Without it our people die. I'm sure it will probably cost more. That is what we need to address and review."
In 2004, the commission that was headed by Dr. Gomez recommended that NHI be universal.
The institution administering NHI would decide which individuals or households are able to pay contributions, and which would need assistance from the government.
The Commission also recommended that NHI be administered by the National Insurance Board, and the plan should offer a comprehensive package of benefits.
Under NHI, residents would have access to the public and private healthcare systems in The Bahamas, obtain referrals abroad as allowed by the regulations and guidelines which would govern these matters, and have the option of purchasing services which exceed or are not covered by the NHI system, the 2004 report states.
The Nassau Guardian contacted Dr. Gomez after his recent declaration in North Andros.
He said NHI is about equity "and being our brother's keeper".
Pressed on funding such a complex scheme, Dr. Gomez said, "The people pay. That's the beauty of NHI.
"Everybody pays according to what they earn."
He described this approach as a kind of asue.
"You pay each month," Dr. Gomez explained. "You get your draw when you get sick. It's a form of paying for healthcare that everyone can afford."
Two men accused of serious offenses were acquitted yesterday after the prosecution offered no further evidence against them.
Alex Williams appeared before Justice Roy Jones for the start of his armed robbery trial. Prosecutors alleged that he robbed Asue Draw of $34,490 on December 12, 2010.
However, the complainants were no longer interested in continuing with the case so Darnell Dorsette, the prosecutor, was obliged to close her case without calling any witnesses.
As a result, Jones directed the jury to return a unanimous acquittal.
Craig Davis also appeared before Jones on two counts of possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life, and one count of causing harm.
Prosecutors alleged that Davis shot at Eric Fosil and Nelsie Nelson between March 29 and March 30, 2011, and he caused harm to Bernes Nelson at the same time.
The alleged victim testified under oath that they did not want to pursue the matter, so Dorsette closed her case without leading any evidence.
Jones ordered the jury to return a not guilty verdict in the case.
A webshop employee is the latest murder victim of the year after being shot multiple times in the face at the corporate offices of Asue Draw on East Bay Street.
Attorney Wayne Munroe, who represents a group of web shop operators, claims that his clients' gaming operations, which consist of the 'Pick 3' and 'Pick 4' games, are not covered by the Lotteries and Gaming Act.
Munroe filed his clients' statement of claim in the Supreme Court recently.
"Insofar as persons access sites outside of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas to place a wager on the outcome of the 'Pick 3' or 'Pick 4' games in the various states of the United States of America these games are not caught by the definition of lottery as set out in section 2 of the act," the court document states.
"Placing a wager on the 'Pick 3' or 'Pick 4' games in the various states of the United States of America is not and has never been the game called and known as 'numbers' as described in the definition of lottery as set out in section 2 of the act.
"There is no provision in the act that prohibits or criminalizes participants in such games when done over the Internet."
Munroe argues that his clients' operations are not illegal.
He represents Percy Web Cafe, Island Luck, FML Group of Companies, Asue Draw, Whatfall and Chances.
The court documents say the six web shops "assist members of the public with accessing and using websites domiciled both outside and within the Commonwealth of The Bahamas".
Munroe argues that his clients had a legitimate expectation that their businesses would have been regulated by the previous administration.
"In late 2010, the Office of the Attorney General was instructed to draft the 'Computer Wagering Licensing Regulations', which required pertinent information concerning the business," according to the document.
"The relevant plaintiffs supplied the government with any and all necessary information required to assist with the drafting of the regulations.
"The plaintiffs revealed every detail concerning the web shop industry to the minister of finance and relevant bodies.
"The plaintiffs will rely on the draft 'Computer Wagering Licensing Regulations' for their proposed effect at trail."
The Court of Appeal on April 17 rejected a bid by attorney Alfred Sears and Munroe to stay a ruling delivered by Chief Justice Sir Michael Barnett.
Sir Michael lifted a conservatory order that prevented web shops from being subjected to police interference.
The lawyers secured the conservatory order on January 30, two days after a gambling referendum failed.
Following the referendum, Prime Minister Perry Christie ordered that all web shop gaming cease.
Sears and Munroe argue that Sir Michael erred in his judgment.
The substantive case is expected to be heard on May 24.
Munroe said his clients want to operate their businesses "either unmolested by officials" or ask the court to "direct the executive to regulate the business".