Patterson Confident Referendum Will Fail
While expressing disappointment that the government has only given a month’s notice for the highly-anticipated referendum on gambling, Bahamas Christian Council President Rev. Dr. Ranford Patterson expressed confidence yesterday that Bahamians in the majority will vote against the legalization of gambling.
“We strongly believe that Bahamians are going to vote no,” Patterson told The Nassau Guardian shortly after Prime Minister Perry Christie announced in the House of Assembly that the referendum will be held on December 3.
“I believe that there are more of us who believe that this is negative than those who think this is positive. I am more than convinced that people will vote ‘no’ and it doesn’t matter how much money those other guys have to spend. We believe that we have what it takes to pull this off.”
Patterson said he was offended that the Christie administration met with the “gambling boys” but did not meet with the Christian Council before yesterday’s announcement was made.
“I know for sure that they met with them, with those gambling boys,” Patterson said. “I have information that the government met with them several times.”
In addition to announcing the referendum date, Christie laid out the guidelines that would come into play if the referendum passes.
As for the referendum itself, Patterson suggested that it is not well thought out.
“I don’t know how much thought has gone into this referendum,” he said. “The country is at stake. I think we need to spend more time talking to civil society and the church so that we can get a better understanding of what is to be expected as a result of this.”
Patterson said there are several holes in the referendum and the associated guidelines. For example, he said the question that the government intends to ask is the wrong one.
The sole question on the ballot will be: “Do you support the legalization and regularization of web shops?”
“To the best of our knowledge, web shops are already legal because they have been licensed by the government,” Patterson said in a press statement.
“It seems to us that the appropriate question for this referendum ought to be: “Do you support the legalization and regulation of the illegal gambling operations currently conducted by web shop operators?”
Patterson said another matter of concern coming out of the prime minister’s communication is that in the event the referendum passes, the government would expand the gambling industry for the benefit of a few individuals who are currently conducting illegal gambling enterprises at the expense of the poor.
“These few persons over time will likely earn hundreds of millions of dollars at the expense of our poor,” Patterson said.
Christie said the government expects to generate between $15 million and $20 million annually if the referendum passes.
He said the license fee for web shops would be a minimum of $1 million and the taxes collected would go toward funding the arts, healthcare and education.
But Patterson argued that the government can easily earn that amount by increasing the existing rate of customs duties.
He added that the government does not need to go to this length to provide for sports, Junkanoo, education and the like “by exploiting the poor and by rewarding a few persons currently engaged in this criminal activity”.
By Krystel Rolle
Guardian Staff Reporter
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