Sunday, September 28, 2014

Her Majesty Prisons (HMP) and the harsh realities of crime and punishment in the modern Bahamas

Prison reform must be a national priority


The Nassau Guardian Editorial


Her Majesty’s Prisons (HMP) is obsolete. Built in simpler and more peaceful times, the country’s only correctional facility has seen its physical capacity simply overwhelmed by the harsh realities of crime and punishment in the modern Bahamas.

Today, HMP holds more than 1,500 inmates – a far greater number than envisioned by those who designed it – with the Maximum Security Unit housing more than double the 400 convicts it was originally intended to accommodate.

In addition, there are serious health and sanitation issues, staffing shortages, security concerns and infrastructural problems.

Minister of National Security Dr. Bernard Nottage is aware of the situation. Blaming the chronic overcrowding on the slow movement of the courts and a consequent build-up of remand prisoners, earlier this year, he said it could be alleviated if more inmates were granted bail or sentenced to community service instead of prison time.

While it is true that there are currently hundreds detained at HMP awaiting trial, there are a number of problems with Nottage’s suggestion.

For one thing, despite the repeated promise to usher in Swift Justice, it is unclear whether the government will ever manage to influence the speed at which the judiciary operates – or even whether such an outcome exclusively of the government’s doing is desirable, given the country’s constitutionally-enshrined separation of powers.

For another, the public at large can be expected to express some level of discomfort at the idea of certain categories of accused persons being released on their own recognizance, particularly in light of the many recent claims of persons committing violent offenses while on bail.

Perhaps most importantly, Nottage’s solution seems rather modest considering the severity of the problem and its potential consequences for society.

Back in early 2012, an era of grand political promises, the then opposition PLP said the state of the prison was unacceptable and could not be allowed to persist.

Its election manifesto said: “The increase in crime in our society and the number of offenders at HMP has resulted in severe overcrowding and unsanitary conditions. The ratio of officers to inmates is not ideal, and the health and working conditions are a concern to both inmates and the officers assigned to watch them.”

The PLP promised that, if elected, it would build a much-needed clinic at the prison, increase staff numbers to “safe levels”, establish halfway houses to smooth the entry of ex-offenders into society and even consider building a new prison complex.

The now governing party made a number of pledges in the run-up to the May 2012 election, many of which have been forced onto the back-burner by unpleasant economic realities.

Even in these cash-strapped times, addressing the state of Her Majesty’s Prisons must remain among our top national priorities.

The majority of HMP inmates are young men who will one day rejoin this society, but it is very difficult to rehabilitate a person under inhumane and unsanitary conditions. Whether they return to us as promising assets or dangerous liabilities therefore hangs in the balance.

September 27, 2014

thenassauguardian editorial

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Bahamas National Energy Policy 2013-2033

20-Year Energy Policy Outlined


By Jones Bahamas:


Environment and Housing Minister Kendred Dorsett on Monday released the Bahamas National Energy Policy 2013-2033 a document which serves as the road plan to securing the energy future of The Bahamas.

Minister Dorsett said recognising the critical need for reform within the energy sector of The Bahamas, the government has set out to effect transformation through legislation and policy changes.

“In August of 2013, Prime Minister Perry Christie, released a document on behalf of the government, stating the case for energy sector reform with several key objectives. All of which when achieved would lead to a, modern, diversified and efficient energy sector, providing Bahamians with affordable energy supplies and long term energy security towards enhancing international competitiveness and sustainable prosperity.’

“The document also foreshadowed, at the time, the realignment of the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC), which is key to real reform within the sector. In the past two years, in the furtherance of our objective to change the energy sector, this administration has established an Energy Task Force which was charged with advising on solutions to reducing the high cost of electricity. We eliminated the excise tax on fuel used by BEC in the 2013-2014 budget.

“We eliminated tariffs on inverters for solar panels and LED appliances to ensure that more our citizens would be able to afford these energy saving devices. With the assistance of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the government was also able to advance two pilot projects devised to collect data on renewable energy technologies. The first project provided for the installation of solar water heaters and the second project for the installation of photovoltaic systems in Bahamian homes.

The minister added that The Bahamas National Energy Policy 2013-2033 is a document which serves as the road plan to securing the energy future of The Bahamas, presenting the government’s vision and goals for a reformed energy sector after consultation with industry stakeholders.

The four goals covered in the policy are to ensure that Bahamians will become well aware of the importance of energy conservation, use energy wisely and continuously pursue opportunities for improving energy efficiencies with key economic sectors embracing eco-efficiency; ensuring that The Bahamas will have a modern energy infrastructure that enhances energy generation capacity and ensures that energy supplies are safely, reliably, and affordably transported to homes, communities and the productive sectors on a sustainable basis; ensuring that The Bahamas will be a world leader in the development and implementation of sustainable energy opportunities and continuously pursues a diverse range of well- researched and regulated, environmentally sensitive and sustainable energy programmes, built upon geographical, climatic and traditional economic strengths and ensuring that The Bahamas will have a dynamic and appropriate governance, institutional, legal and regulatory framework advancing future developments in the energy sector underpinned by high levels of consultation, citizen participation and public-private sector partnerships.

“This document provides the country with a guide to total energy reform by the year 2033 through strategic steps such as fuel diversification, infrastructure modernisation, renewable energy source development, conservation and efficiency. It also includes a table for target evaluation and monitoring,” Minister Dorsett said.

“As it states in the policy, ‘to ensure that the goals of the policy are achieved, the government in consultation with the private sector and civil society will develop three year action plans that will enable the development of key actions to support the strategies articulated in the policy document. These plans will provide detailed information on specific actions to be undertaken, the implementing agencies or stakeholders, time lines and costs.’”

In conjunction with the release of this policy document, Cabinet has also approved the framework for the Residential Energy Self Generation (RESG) and Renewable Energy Power Purchase/Inter- connection agreements prepared by BEC.

“The Electricity Act will be amended in short order to enable the government to advance the programme which will provide a framework for residential and certain commercial customers with renewable energy generation capabilities sited on their respective properties for serving their own electricity requirement to connect to the grid,” he added. “The applicable renewable energy technologies will be wind turbines or solar photovoltaic power sources. BEC will reserve the right to limit the number of services per individual, entity or classification.”

Minister Dorsett and Prime Minister Christie left the country yesterday as part of a delegation representing The Bahamas at the United Nations climate change summit being held in New York.

According to a statement released by the UN on its website, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has “invited world leaders, from government, finance, business, and civil society to Climate Summit to galvanise and catalyse climate action.

The prime minister is expected to address the general assembly today.

23 September, 2014

Jones Bahamas

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Bahamas government’s gaming legislation has attempted to make fools of the Bahamian voting public ...and has again shed light on the corruption ...and dishonesty which have become hallmarks of the Progressive Liberal Party - PLP’s term in office

THE GAMING BILL: A BAD BET TO REPAY AN OLD DEBT!





A few days of Parliamentary debate culminated Monday evening, with the passage of the government’s gaming legislation during which time Bahamians watched as some of their elected officials made a mockery of our democratic process by ignoring the results of last year’s gaming referendum, while others failed to show up at all.

In the wake of what is becoming yet another political snowball for the Progressive Liberal Party, the Minister responsible for elections and referenda issued what can only be described as a lackluster apology for the government’s decision to ignore the will of the people. That apology, comes several months too late and reeks of political manipulation. A government truly apologetic about this decision would abide by the results of the referendum as the Prime Minister previously committed to.

During his contribution to the debate, the Prime Minister called the finalized legislation the result of months of effort, and focused dialogue with the relevant stakeholders. He further intimated that the legislation was designed to, as he put it, “engender public confidence” in the gaming sector. Sadly to say, the Prime Minister has failed on both fronts.

Clearly, the response from the church and other sectors of the country disproves the PM’s assertion that he truly listened to the dissenting voice on this issue. Instead, it suggests a desire to repay the web shop owners the reported millions contributed to the PLP’s election campaign and further highlights the utter DISTRUST that Bahamians feel toward this administration.

Even more egregious however, was the posture taken by this PLP government against the Church. After years of courting the country’s religious leaders and their parishioners the PLP’s hostile response to criticisms from the church was not only unnecessary, but also ill advised; particularly during a time where the many social ills facing the nation will require the assistance of ALL NON GOVERNMENTAL AGENCIES – especially the church –to help improve the lives of Bahamians.

There is an old proverb which says: “In a Bet, there is a fool and a thief”. The government’s gaming legislation has attempted to make fools of the voting public in this country; and has again shed light on the corruption and dishonesty which have become hallmarks of the PLP’s term in office.

As described by the church, the government’s actions constitute a direct attack on the foundation of this country’s democracy. Their continued disregard for the will of the people is bound to backfire for this Christie administration.

Branville McCartney
DNA Leader - September 17, 2014




Friday, September 19, 2014

No reduction in the excise tax to offset value-added tax (VAT) tax

Price hikes likely on price-controlled items after VAT


By K. QUINCY PARKER
Guardian Business Editor
quincy@nasguard.com


Auto dealers and likely other businesses that deal in price-controlled items may hike their prices by more than the proposed value-added tax (VAT) rate of 7.5 percent proposed by the government in order to compensate for losses incurred by VAT compliance.

As Bahamians contemplate the impending institution of a value-added tax regime, the Bahamas Motor Dealers Association (BMDA) is sounding the alarm about the ability of price-controlled industries to remain profitable given an already onerous tax burden.

“There are some misconceptions that even the government has,” said Automotive Industrial Distributors (AID) Ltd. General Manager Jason Watson.

The government, according to Watson, is assuming that in the case of the BMDA, prices will be able to be kept at the same level, and as far as price-controlled items, that is so. However, for a company like AID that also sells items that are not price-controlled, the price of those items will go up in order to compensate for the losses on price-controlled items.

“That’s just an economic fact,” he said. “There’s just no getting around that.”

In fact, Watson said the likely price hike will be more than the VAT rate, because dealers will be compensating for losses due to inventory devaluation, gross profit declines and the costs of VAT compliance.

Fred Albury, president of the BMDA and owner of Executive Motors, talked about the “very negative” effect of recent changes to the government’s tax regime on the cost of doing business, even before adding VAT.

“It started in 2010. The business license fee increased from 0.5 percent to 0.75 percent. That’s a 50 percent increase when you translate that into dollars and cents,” Albury said.

He explained that there had been a revaluing of properties for property taxes – whereas he had been paying $20,000 a year for his parts and services building, the cost shot up to $75,000. He said that for a showroom, which had been $4,000, he is now paying $12,000 a year.

“All of that goes as an expense to the bottom line,” he said.

“If I was paying $200,000 a year in business license fees, that went to $300,000 (using the formula given above). And on top of that, we’re under price control, so we can’t up the prices to absorb these additional costs.”

“We have some of the same issues [as Albury and the other dealers], being under price control ourselves,” Watson explained. “Vehicles, parts, paints, accessories – it’s all under price control. Whenever we receive a price increase in our business costs, we’re not able to pass that on to the consumer.”

Watson admitted that potential layoffs were on the table in the long-term.

He said that even if sales remain constant, costs will increase, cash flow will decrease, gross profits will decrease because duty will be applied at a lower level in the cost structure. Still, he expects that sales will decrease. And he said that while business at AID is good now, and no layoffs are predicted in the near future, with no alterations in the governments plans, the current business model is “unsustainable.”

The two appeared on the ZNS economy-themed talk show “You And Your Money,” which airs at 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday nights and is rebroadcast at 9 a.m. Fridays.

Watson talked numbers. Accounting software to be able to invoice VAT and file for returns is valued at $300,000, and loss of value on inventory and other matters means a loss of $1.4 million; it will cost his company $1.7 million to become VAT compliant.

Watson said that it will take him six months to be completely compliant, and Albury added that his company, Executive Motors, has more than 30,000 different part numbers that would have to be revalued individually in order to comply with the VAT regulations. Both men said it was impossible to be ready for VAT by January 2015. Albury admitted that he would have to seriously consider whether to remain in business if the VAT is to be implemented in the current iteration.

“Having it where the VAT is a line item, based on what you’re selling – that’s simple. I’m ready for that. But if they say it’s gotta be built into the pricing, I’ve gotta think twice about whether I can stay in business.”

The BMDA is part of the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation, and through the chamber’s Coalition for Responsible Taxation (CRT) has expressed its concerns about the impact of VAT in addition to the government’s tax and fee structure. It is understood that on three occasions, State Minister for Finance Michael Halkitis has declined to meet with the BMDA representatives. BMDA members have instead met with Financial Secretary John Rolle and economist Simon Wilson of the Ministry of Finance.

“The Motor Dealers Association has attempted to get some meetings with [Minister Halkitis] but was unable to do so,” Albury confirmed.

“We’ve made it known that its going to have drastic negative effect on sales due to the fact that there’s going to be no reduction in the excise tax to offset the VAT tax,” he said. “The impact to the consumer is going to be tremendous [in terms of] increases.”

September 18, 2014

thenassauguardian

Thursday, September 18, 2014

New immigration restrictions designed to clamp down on illegal migration ...particularly from Haiti

New Rules To Tackle Illegal Immigration


Tribune242:


IMMIGRATION Minister Fred Mitchell announced that government will impose new immigration restrictions in a bid to clamp down on illegal migration, particularly from Haiti.

This includes the consideration of a ban on people who have previously entered the Bahamas illegally and have been deported from ever obtaining legal status. As of November, the government will also impose new work permit procedures, the Fox Hill MP said.

He said the government will also mandate, as of November, that all people living in the Bahamas have a passport of their nationality.

“With effect from November 1, 2014 new procedures are to come into force with regard to work permit procedures, and it is envisaged that the regulations will be amended and the policies accordingly,” he said.

He said that as of November 1, the government aims to have employers who are applying for first-time work permit holders who are residents of Haiti to come to the Department of Immigration and pay the $100 processing fee, provide a labour certificate, cover letter, stamp tax of $30 and the employee information sheet in Nassau.

He said that information will be forwarded to the Embassy of the Bahamas in Port-au-Prince, Haiti where the applicant will fill out the application form and provide the supporting documents. The applicant must be certified as personally seen by an embassy officer in Port au Prince, he said.

“I also wish to announce that we will as of November 1 require all persons who live in the Bahamas to have a passport of the country of their nationality,” Mr Mitchell said. “Those people who have been born here will get a particular residence permit which will allow them to work and live here until such time as their status pursuant to any application under the terms of the Constitution is decided.

“This will also allow access of children to school. This will not apply to the children of those who are here illegally. The Haitian president and the ambassador have confirmed that they will be able to meet the demand for these passports.”

Mr Mitchell said that holding a foreign passport does not prejudice the right of anyone under the Constitution to apply for citizenship of the Bahamas.

He also said that “with immediate effect” the government will not accept applications for people who do not have legal status to work in the country.

“Anyone who comes to do so, the application will be refused and the applicant will be arrested and charged and deported,” he said in the House of Assembly. “The Cabinet is considering a permanent prospective ban on all people who have come here illegally and have been deported so that they will not ever be able to qualify for a permanent status in the Bahamas.

“We are allowing a period for comment before proceeding with a formal proposal in this regard. The intention is to have new regulations or policies in place on this subject by January 1, 2015, subject to any exigencies,” he said.

It is also proposed that as of November 1, the practice of issuing certificates of identity to non-nationals born here will cease.

“These will only be for Bahamians who have a need for an emergency travel document or where in accordance with our international obligations we are to issue them to non-nationals,” the minister said.

He said the new rules are necessary to crack down on the “criminality involved in immigration”.

“This requires the efforts of all Bahamians to guard our borders and protect our country. We are particularly concerned about what is happening in Abaco and special attention is being paid to that island and to Eleuthera where many residents believe that things have gotten totally out of hand. It is important for us to address it before it gets out of hand.

“There are reports that there are in some sections of those islands no go areas for public officials. This cannot stand and this will be stopped.”

Nearly 100 illegal Haitian immigrants were picked up by Defence Force officers on Monday. On Tuesday five Cubans were picked up by officials on Cay Lobos. 

September 18, 2014

Monday, September 15, 2014

Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) is simply a disaster

D’Aguilar: BEC is a Disaster


By Jones Bahamas:



A leading businessmen is urging the government to tackle energy reform.  Super Wash President and member of the Coalition for Responsible Taxation Dionisio D’Aguilar said that today’s electricity costs are twice what they should be and said the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) is simply as a disaster.

“BEC is in just an absolute horrendous condition.  I’m a former director of BEC.  I was on the board of BEC until the last general election and I can tell you it is a disaster, it is bankrupt and if they won’t tell you, that’s what it is, they have no money,” he said.

Mr. D’Aguilar’s comments came during a recent Rotary luncheon meeting.

He said that BEC is plagued by a vicious cycle and questioned how the power company would support the demand from the upcoming mega Baha Mar resort.

“People don’t pay their bills, you don’t get the parts, so you don’t get money in to buy the parts in order to fix your generators so you can't do advance purchasing, so your generators are constantly down,” he said.

“When Baha Mar kicks in we’re going to be in an even worse position.  When you speak to the people at BEC, their essentially generating what we demand now.”

Earlier this month, customers took to social media outlets to vent their frustration over repeated power outages after BEC experienced three engine failures.

At last report, BEC Chairman Leslie Miller renewed calls for the government to invest in a new $200 million power plant in an effort the meet the increasing demand for electricity.

He also told the Bahama Journal that the power company is looking to bring in more generators to meet the additional demand from Baha Mar.

Due to the numerous engine failures at Clifton Pier, Mr. Miller also said that Bahamians can expect to see an increase in their electricity bills by next month.

“The surcharge is going to go up appreciably due to the fact that we had to rely more on Blue Hill than Clifton Pier.  Every day that we have to rely on Blue Hill over Clifton with the total output at Blue Hill – it cost us an extra quarter of a million dollars per day for fuel, its $10,000 an hour, its approximately $250,000 a day extra that compute out to as much as five sets per kilowatt hour on your next electricity bill,” he said.

In an effort to get the ball rolling on tackling energy reform, last month, The Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation (BCCEC) along with the Coalition for Responsible Taxation presented the Christie Administration with a report on how the government can efficiently generate energy.

The report lays out an action plan to reduce electricity cost within the next two to three years and the construction of new power plant by 2016.

The report emphasised the critical importance of reducing energy costs in an effort lessen the long term negative effects on disposable income due to the implementation of Value Added Tax (VAT).

15 September, 2014

Jones Bahamas

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The issue of legalized gambling in The Bahamas: ...Web shops ...and access to casino gambling by ordinarily resident Bahamians ...threatens the moral, social and economic fabric of the Bahamian society...

Pandora’s Box: Why residents should not be allowed to gamble in casinos


By SIMON


There are few physical reminders left of Hobby Horse Hall, such as the stables, converted into apartments.

The eponymous roadway near Commonwealth Bank in Cable Beach, is another reminder of the defunct racetrack once located in the vicinity of the new golf clubhouse at Baha Mar.

A younger generation of Bahamians have no memory of the racetrack which was shuttered decades ago. While many Bahamians over 50 have some memory of and others over 60 may be somewhat nostalgic about Hobby Horse Hall, many older Bahamians recall the downsides.

Racing was seasonal and when in season it was not daily. Even with limited opportunities for gambling, quite a number of families suffered as scores of gamblers placed bets on the horses in person or by proxy.

A friend recalls that his grandmother rarely missed an occasion to bet on the horses, much to the dismay of his grandfather. The usually sober-minded lady and daily churchgoer was obsessed with the races.

Vastly more Bahamians than tourists attended Hobby Horse. During the relatively short season grocery stores reported a drop in sales, mortgage payments fell off, and many essential family obligations were neglected, because many breadwinners were chasing the dream of easy money. Quite a number of working people exhausted their weekly pay check in a single day of betting.

The Pindling administration resisted calls to reopen the track. As casino gambling expanded and with the experience of Hobby Horse Hall in mind, the UBP and the PLP agreed that residents should be restricted from casino gambling, because they feared the social and economic havoc it might wreak on the country.

Many church leaders were opposed to gambling. A sort of historic compromise was reached in which visitors would be allowed to gamble, but not those ordinarily resident.

Insights

The compromise was based on a number of insights and had various components. Casino gambling was not an end in itself as the vision was not to make The Bahamas a gambling Mecca. That was not our brand.

Licences were granted as incentives for investors seeking to build resorts of a certain size on New Providence and Grand Bahama. Importantly, the restriction on casino gambling was placed on those ordinarily resident, both Bahamian and non-Bahamian.

Visiting Bahamians and non-Bahamians living overseas are allowed to gamble in the casinos, an essential distinction largely obscured in many discussions on the gaming bill.

The question is not about foreigners versus Bahamians. It is about residents and non-residents. Residents who are nationals of another country are also barred from casino gambling. It is essential that journalists and others get the distinction correct.

There is a question as to whether those ordinarily resident should be allowed to gamble in casinos. Some use the language of discrimination, going so far as to compare the issue with the fight for gender equality. It is a specious argument in significant ways.

For now, one example: The restriction on Bahamians owning handguns is viewed as discriminatory by some. For many others, including this writer, it is a reasonable exception in order to avoid the development of a broader gun culture which would have negative social consequences.

Residents gambling in the casino and restrictions on gun ownership are not based on biological givens, such as race, gender or sexual orientation. Instead the former are reasonable exceptions based on possible wide scale social harm.

As noted in a previous column, there are three broad philosophical clusters constituting the body of opinion on gambling, ranging from the prohibitionist viewpoint to that of the libertarian. Prohibitionists would ban all forms of gambling. Libertarians would allow for all forms of gambling.

The third cluster represents a more moderate and intermediate position, prioritizing a communitarian or common good argument of the social effects of certain types of gambling over the question of individual choice and autonomy.

In debating whether those ordinarily resident should be allowed to gamble in casinos, the public policy debate concerns much more than the question of rights. We should be equally concerned about social and economic effects.

There is perhaps a generational divide on the issue, with older Bahamians recalling the effects of Hobby Horse Hall more likely to oppose residents gambling, as opposed to a younger generation with little or no memory more prone to see this as a rights issue. This may be a stark example of Edmund Burke’s admonition: “Those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it.”

Realities

Public policy debates include both philosophical arguments as well as hard realities informed by historical and sociological insight.

Hothouse gambling in a casino environment with free drinks and a carnival atmosphere with flashing lights, scores of fellow gamblers, inducements to gamble and a panoply of games of chance, is emotionally quite different from buying numbers.

With the country set to legalize gambling activities by web shops, the addition of easy access to casino gambling by ordinarily resident Bahamians would have a devastating effect on the Bahamian society socially, economically, in terms of home life and a potential increase in various types of crime.

The Bahamas would become a gambling Mecca – for Bahamians gambling online and in casinos around the clock.

Add to this a 7.5 percent VAT, likely to go higher, amidst the ongoing decline of the middle class and increased poverty in a still struggling economy. We are courting disaster.

Cairns, a city of approximately 150,000, is the fourth most popular destination for overseas tourists to Australia. There is debate raging over plans for a mega resort and casino for the area.

The Cairns Post reports: “Social workers are struggling to treat large numbers of Far Northern residents for gambling addiction, claiming Aquis [the proposed resort] would push them over the edge.

“Centacare Cairns Executive Director Helga Biro said local social workers were already at saturation point assisting locals for gambling addictions.

“‘These are people who can’t afford to pay their electricity bills. They can’t afford to buy nappies or formula for their babies…so they need to come for social assistance’.”

A report on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation website noted the concerns of “State Coordinator General Markham [who] warned that 1,500 extra poker machines will result in Cairns locals losing an additional $56 million a year by 2021.

“That would equate to each adult resident in Cairns spending an extra $240 per year on pokies [slot machines]. He says 60 percent of those new pokie losses would come from around 4,000 new problem gamblers.

“The modelling forecasts $22 million lost to poker machines by just 950 high risk problem gamblers.

“A further $12 million would be lost each year by around 3,000 so-called ‘moderate risk’ problem gamblers.

“Based on this modelling, Markham says the financial viability of the Aquis casino is likely to be propped up by just 4,000 people who are each spending between $3,000 and $23,000 a year.

“His research also shows that about 70,000 new recreational gamblers in Cairns would lose, on average, $16 million a year on pokies.”

Instructive

The experience of Cairns, with a population of approximately 150,000, is instructive and disturbing for a country approaching 400,000 residents. In such smaller communities, the issue of problem gambling is often more pronounced.

Substitute New Providence or Bimini or Freeport for Cairns, with Bahamians being allowed to play the pokies in casinos, in addition to playing through web shops.

The owner of a popular restaurant near Paradise Island noted to this columnist that he initially thought that the bulk of his revenue would come from tourists. Instead it is repeat business by residents that is his gravy train.

Imagine near 24-hour, year-round access to casinos by residents at Bimini, Freeport and New Providence, with most residents about half an hour or less away from a casino.

This might destroy Bimini and wreak havoc on an already struggling Grand Bahama. In the main population center of New Providence residents would likely gamble in casinos on the way home from work, on lunch hours, and especially on weekends.

With sports betting in the mix in casinos, the increase in gambling by Bahamians will be phenomenal. In the off-season, resorts will likely market cheap rooms to residents, offering incentives for gamblers, including one-night gambling stands and weekend specials.

Younger residents on New Providence looking for something to do on weekends may flood the casinos in droves, creating a new generation of gamblers.

All of this outflow of considerable sums of money will go out of the country, possibly seriously effecting our fiscal position as a country.

Those who are arguing this matter as a rights issue may be quite na├»ve. We may well happily delight in our newfound “right” or “freedom”, as we spin the slot machines and play other games of chance, all the while gambling away our pay checks, savings and future as a country.

It is a Pandora’s Box we should not open, yet another means for too many seeking to buy hope that rarely comes and instead often leads to despair.

frontporchguardian@gmail.com,
www.bahamapundit.com.

September 11, 2014

thenassauguardian