Laing: Web Shops, Lottery May Face Problems Co-Existing
“The problem is that the prime minister seems to have twisted himself in a real knot with this issue because on the one hand he said the national lottery cannot be sustained in a small market like this, yet on the other hand the few operators we have are able to profitably run their operations in this economy,” Laing told The Nassau Guardian.
“There is some contradiction in that and the contradiction might arise because in trying to do both, in trying to satisfy both, there might be a cannibalizing of the one over the other.”
“If this is a question of needed revenue for the government and if it is a question of regulating an industry that is now unregulated it would seem to me that a national lottery is the best means of doing that.”
During his communication in the House on Wednesday, Christie said UK-based consultants advised that the demographics and geography of the country present problems for the set up of a national lottery, although he admitted the government has not done a feasibility study on a national lottery.
He said because of the large jackpots offered by the Florida lottery and the country’s closeness to the United States, it is possible that Bahamians would spend their money on an American lottery ticket rather than at home.
The prime minister expressed concern about infrastructure cost of a national lottery.
He also said the government could run the national lottery itself with input from external gaming experts and allow Bahamians to buy shares or potentially invite tenders from commercial lottery operators to operate the lottery.
“The invitation to tender would provide the flexibility to potential operators to operate the lottery in the most beneficial way, so as to maximize returns to the government, good causes, players and the operator while maintaining all of the appropriate protections for players,” Christie said.
However, Laing said web shop owners could not justifiably operate a national lottery on behalf of the government because of their involvement with illegal businesses in the country over the years.
“If the government through whatever agency or entity, it determines to do so, operates [a] national lottery, the challenge in inviting the existing operators to come into that means you are now inviting people who would have challenges passing a fit and proper test having operated illegally in the country for years,” he said.
“How does one justify the ability of such persons to operate on behalf of the Government of The Bahamas an enterprise where if they had been caught and prosecuted they would have been deemed convicted criminals in the country for doing for years what was illegal?”
In the January 28 referendum, voters will be asked whether they want to see a national lottery established and whether they want web shops legalized.
By Royston Jones, Jr.
Guardian Staff Reporter