Christie Caves In To Pressure on Gambling Vote
Sensing that much of the Bahamian public had taken an opposing stance against his planned December 3 referendum on the legalisation of web shops, Prime Minister Perry Christie has caved in to mounting pressure by postponing the referendum date to January 28, 2013. Initially, the public was told that they would also decide on a national lottery. But that was scrapped due to the counsel that the prime minister received from the British consultants that were hired to advise the government on gaming. According to them, a national lottery wouldn’t be feasible in a nation as small as The Bahamas. This drew much criticism in the print and electronic media. Making matters worse is the fact that Christie has yet to make public the written report or correspondence his government had received from these consultants. Many Bahamians complained of a lack of information regarding the proposed referendum.
Many of them also expressed deep suspicion that only a few of the prominent gaming bosses stood to benefit if web shop gaming was legalised. According to many of them, it appeared as if the Christie administration had already made up its mind which gaming bosses would be allowed to continue to operate under a legalised system. For all intents and purposes, the masses in this country are deeply offended by this. They don’t like the thought of their referendum votes being taken for granted by anybody, including the Christie administration. Judging from the way this process has been handled by the government, one can argue that the prime minister really believes that Bahamians will vote ”yes” on referendum day. Clearly the Christie administration was flirting with a powder keg. If the January 28, 2013 referendum date is kept, and the people vote yes to legalise gambling, the PLP will no doubt suffer the political repercussions for this from Christian voters in 2017. As well, compounding the confusion in this referendum debacle is the question over the legality of holding a referendum on gaming.
Former attorney general in the PLP government Alfred Sears told The Nassau Guardian that parliament must pass an amendment act to the constitutional referendum act or create a new law before government goes ahead with its proposed web shop referendum. Sears was not alone in sounding the alarm in the illegality of the proposed referendum. Prominent attorney and former PLP chairman Raynard Rigby noted that the parliamentary registration department has no authority to manage a gaming referendum or opinion poll. As Rigby opined, the PLP government has not thought out this referendum.
And then there is the apparent indifference of the Christie administration towards the Bahamas Christian Council (BCC). The BCC had initially called on the PLP government to not hold a referendum on gaming, but this was ignored. The government was called to close down the web shops. This was also ignored. For years the PLP has been known to be the party of the Baptist Church. Moving forward, it will be interesting to see how the PLP’s attitude towards the BCC will affect its relationship with the Christian community. The PLP has taken for granted the votes of Christians for far too long. For what it’s worth, the BCC has at least won a small victory. The ultimate goal is now getting Bahamians to vote ”no” on January 28 and getting the government to shut down the web shops. For awhile there, I was under the impression that the Christie administration was more interested in pleasing the numbers men than the Christian community and the wider public. The prime minister has listened to the hue and cry of the general public by postponing the referendum. In my view, this was the right decision.