Alfred Sears Wants Casino Issue On Ballot
Former Attorney General Alfred Sears said yesterday if it were up to him the upcoming gambling referendum would ask Bahamians to vote on liberalizing the whole gaming sector, including casino gambling, and not just focus on web shops.
Sears said it is time for the government to remove a discriminatory clause from the constitution which bars Bahamians from gambling or owning casinos.
Sears was a guest on the Guardian Radio Talk Show ‘Darold Miller Live’.
“The current state of excluding Bahamians from management and control as well as participation in gaming is inconsistent with democratic practice,” Sears said.
“It is inconsistent with the core values of the constitution, that is the norm of non-discrimination. We should remove this prohibition once and for all, as we hopefully will remove the other…forms of discrimination that currently exist.”
But Sears said he understands why the government has not yet addressed the issue of casino gaming for Bahamians.
“That ought to be the objective here, but I understand the political reality of our country and there would need to be a wider consultation,” he said.
He said he hopes the issue would be one of the recommendations the Constitutional Review Commission will make to the government next year.
Sears, who served as attorney general for part of the Christie administration’s previous term, suggested that it is contradictory for the government to use taxpayer funds to subsidize foreign owned casinos while the constitution prevents its own citizens from playing inside them.
“The fundamental issue is this prohibition against Bahamians which is untenable given the fact that we subsidize gaming in The Bahamas and we enrich many foreign operators, and we allow our own people to become participants in the game as croupiers working on behalf of these persons.
“Why should my money fund it, why should I allow people to be enriched by it, and Bahamians are denied the opportunity to participate as entrepreneurs and in the games? If it were my choice, I would raise and address that issue frontally.”
Sears added that people who are morally opposed to liberalizing gaming for Bahamians should also agitate for the closure of all casinos.
“If we take the view that gaming is morally evil then I think just from a logical point of view, we ought to close down the casino in Atlantis as well as other casinos in our country,” he said.
“If one is taking a moral stand, one cannot be selective and say well gaming is good when it’s under the control of foreign operators, but gaming is bad when it’s under the control of Bahamian operators.”
Sears is an attorney for Craig Flowers, owner of the FML chain of web shops.
By Taneka Thompson
Guardian Senior Reporter