Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Sidney Strachan, the former chairman of the Bahamas Gaming Reform (BGR) committee expressed disappointment in church leaders who oppose a referendum on gambling

Church 'Predicament' Over Gambling


THE former chairman of the Bahamas Gaming Reform committee expressed disappointment in church leaders who oppose a referendum of gambling – a move he claims places them in a “predicament” with the pro-gambling public.

Sidney Strachan commended the Christie administration over the weekend for sticking to its campaign promise to hold the nationwide poll, as reiterated in last week’s Speech from the Throne.

He said the BGR has long expressed the need for government to review the “antiquated, hypocritical and discriminatory” gaming laws – a view shared by local stakeholders including casino owners and operators and the Bahamas Hotel Association.

Mr Strachan said: “To continue pretending that gaming does not exist and a large majority of Bahamians do not want to participate is ludicrous.

“While one group is permitted to come into our country and game in and own gambling properties, Bahamians are treated as second class citizens and denied the same rights.

“There is something fundamentally and inherently wrong when a foreigner has more rights in the Bahamas than a citizen.”

Mr Strachan said the BGR has been in contact with regulated gaming jurisdictions outside the country and has been advised that the combined economic impact of a national gaming network in the Bahamas could potentially exceed $60 million, and could create as many as 1,500 to 2,000 jobs.

“Bottom line,” Mr Strachan said, “Bahamians want to game and will not stop. However; this hypocrisy must cease. Churches that enforce on its members a tithe and other ‘voluntary taxes’ on all income, legal or illegal, now want to prevent the government from legally taxing an existing enterprise.”

He explained that some churches have said they will accept all money regardless of where it came from – simply because pastors have the authority to “bless” it.

Mr Strachan said: “Gambling is a nationally and internationally accepted legal form of entertainment.

“The Bahamas instead has decided to prohibit its citizens from participating in and owning a key portion of its own tourism product.

“We continue to foolishly conduct business like a banana republic while modern democracies reap the profits from modern gaming networks.”

He noted that the government could use the money raised on schools, hospitals, infrastructure and support programmes – all of which would generate new employment.

Mr Strachan said Prime Minister Perry Christie is doing “the noble and correct thing” by allowing Bahamians to choose for themselves.

“While this is not necessary to change the gaming law, it is certainly a step in the right direction to complete reform and towards creating Bahamian ownership in our country,” he said.

May 29, 2012