Christie Playing Games With Games of Chance

Wednesday 07th, November 2012 / 07:54 Published by

Prime Minister Perry Christie Tuesday finally confirmed what I and other informed, discerning Bahamians already knew from day one – there is no actual UK consultant report on gambling in The Bahamas – the report Prime Minister Christie told Parliament and the country would be a basis for his Government deciding what question(s) would ultimately appear on the December 3 referendum ballot on web shop gambling in The Bahamas.

Speaking to the media, Mr. Christie said he is not releasing to the public the report he previously said he would receive by early October at the latest, because it actually does not exist at all: Prime Minister Christie’s quote: “What report? The Government has a continuing relationship with gaming consultants on all matters to do with that. It is never a specific report, it’s continuing matters where discussions are made, etcetera, so it’s no physical report. There are three or four pages of advice that you get from time to time. I don’t understand the question of whether there is a report to be released, there is no report.”

The Prime Minister then told the media he will not release to the public even the “three to four pages” of advice he said he would get “from time to time” on the gambling issue. Back on September 20, the Prime Minister is quoted by the media as saying he would announce the date for the gambling referendum after reviewing the report issued to his Government by UK-based consultants he said were engaged to provide advice on gaming in The Bahamas.

His mind-blowing admission that there is no actual report, is the latest evidence of the monumental charade apparently being perpetrated on The Bahamian people by the Government regarding the December 3 numbers poll. As I said in my commentary of November 1, the Bahamian people have been mislead on this issue of legalising the numbers business, and I encourage the Bahamian people not to allow the Government to play games with the game of chance (gambling) in our country, to turn out in large numbers and to vote ‘no’ on December 3.

It is already untenable enough that the question the Government has decided to put to a vote will not address all forms of gambling in The Bahamas outside of web shop gambling, and to now know that the Bahamian people have been mislead about how that final ballot question came about is absolutely inexcusable.

The Bahamian people need to understand what we as a nation could be getting ourselves into if the Government goes ahead with how the Prime Minister says it plans to deal with web shops if the December 3 referendum passes. The Bahamian people need to appreciate that gambling is a serious business that brings in millions of dollars to numbers bosses. Money is power. And if the Government says it may legalise web shop gambling, but then decides to play favorites with who gets licenced and who does not, it will be as hustlers say “them messing with my money” to those in the business who won’t get licenced – and when you decide to do that, you have to accept the possible consequences of that sort of thing. Gambling is a game of chance, but the gambling business is no game.

The Prime Minister, in his communication to Parliament, advised that special criteria would be set up for the licensing of web shop gambling – criteria that will in fact, make it impossible for most persons already in the business to be licensed, and that will also make it impossible for most Bahamians who want to enter the business to be able to do so.

So what the Prime Minister essentially announced is that he and his Government intend to establish government-instituted protectionism in web shop gaming should it be legalized. Who are the current numbers men then, who could stand to benefit from such protectionism? If the Government is going to create a new industry, why is it seeking to determine which Bahamians can remain viable or enter the industry and which cannot? It is not the business of the government to, in the words of the Prime Minister, seek to determine how many web shops the market can sustain. In free enterprise, I open my business, if it makes money it makes money, if it doesn’t then I have to decide whether I want to close it down. The government ought not be deciding for me before I even get a chance to open my business, that my business will not be profitable.

Furthermore, obviously all numbers houses currently open are making money, else they would not be able to be open and operating with staff for so long, so the Government does not need to try to figure out whether those businesses actually can turn a profit in the web shop gaming business – they already are doing so. And more to the point, if the Government, according to the Prime Minister, expects to collect many millions more in tax revenue from web shops than it does from the country’s second largest industry – banking – then there should be no question in his mind about how much the market is willing to service and is capable of servicing those who are already in the numbers business.

There is no consultant report from the UK (not that our Government needed such a report anyway to deal with the question of gaming in The Bahamas in all its derivations, including casino gambling). After all, we elected them to govern, not to pass on their responsibilities to foreign consultants. But since there is no such report, it shows then that the Government decided to do away with creating its own promised national lottery, and to maintain the discriminatory clause in the Constitution regarding casino gambling for Bahamians.

The Prime Minister should be open with the Bahamian people and state whose advice he actually is being guided by in regards to what question would be put to us in a vote on December 3. Clearly “three to four pages from time to time” from foreign consultants do not drive Government legislation and policy, so then, what is driving the intended regulations and the poll question? The Bahamian people have not been consulted on those proposed regulations, so it clearly was not our voice that guided what has now been set as the December 3 poll question and what rules web shop gaming will be governed by if legalised.

The Prime Minister appears to be toying with a game the country will not win – that is, saying we may legalise the widespread business of web shop gaming in The Bahamas, but we will then turn around and not make the new industry a level playing field for all Bahamians already in the business and who may want to open such a business.

And make no mistake about it Bahamas, this is serious business. Right now, gambling in web shops is illegal, and while all things illegal should be dealt with according to law, right now it is not – meaning everyone in the business is making their money and nobody, from their point of view, is “messing with their money”.

If we travel down this road of trying to shut out some numbers men to the benefit of others, those who know the history and dynamics of the gambling enterprise know what that can create – the potential makings of a war, because Bahamians already in the web shop business who may get dealt with unequally for what they perceive is the benefit of another web shop owner, stand to lose a lot money – and in the business of gambling, everybody knows that “messing with somebody’s money” never ends well.

Sharon Turner

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