Sunday, July 22, 2012

The gambling referendum debate: ...Current government position of not considering casino and other forms of gaming ownership ...and participation for Bahamian residents falls far short of my expectation ...says Sidney Strachan - former Bahamas Gaming Reform (BGR) leader

Gambling Argument Flawed, Says Advocate

By Sasha Lightbourne
The Bahama Journal

A former Bahamas Gaming Reform (BGR) leader said that the gambling argument is flawed and may not benefit the government once a referendum is called.

In a press statement, Sidney Strachan argued that the church may have the “upper hand” on the gambling issue.

“Current government position of not considering casino and other forms of gaming ownership and participation for Bahamian residents falls far short of my expectation,” he said.

“The BGR has long proffered that Bahamians are treated as third class citizens in their own country. To say only current players will be allowed to be owners in the ‘Numbers game’ go against free enterprise in any democratic society. The Bahamas government, in my opinion, is being disingenuous in stating it proposes to regularise gaming in its current form.”

Mr. Strachan said many of the gaming representatives who are agitating for gambling to be regularised will experience many challenges operating in a legal environment based on current gaming regulations.

“Additionally, I envision many legal, copyright and regulatory challenges for the operators and The Bahamas Government if the ‘numbers’ business is legally allowed in its current form,” he added.

“In these instances, illegal operations were ordered to come to a complete stop and licences were granted to applicants based on their ability to obtain such licences. However, in some instances some large scale illegal gaming continued. Under the current online gaming ‘numbers’ system, I envision many obstacles to having this formally instituted in its present form. The platitudes from some of our leaders can only serve to placate number bosses while pulling the wool over Bahamian eyes once again.”

Addressing the efforts of the newly formed ‘We Care’ group, Mr. Strachan indicated that current gaming owners are making critical mistakes in lobbying on their own behalf and it will prove to be a “blight and a clear conflict of interest” on the government.

“It is in poor judgment and taste and even if we were to obtain this partial gaming victory it will be a negative reflection on how we conduct business in The Bahamas,” Mr. Strachan continued.

“Make no mistake; I support regularisation of ‘numbers’ and hold that the good vs. evil argument is ridiculous. However, anything short of opening up gaming completely to allow all Bahamian residents to be owners and players can never be a complete victory.”

Deputy Prime Minister Philip Davis told the Bahama Journal Wednesday that his party will stick to having the referendum before the end of the year and that Mr. Christie is expected to come to the public soon with all the details.

“The prime minister will be making an announcement very shortly,” Mr. Davis said at the time.
“Mr. Christie’s announcement could come as early as next week, I’m not sure, but I know that as of now he is ready to go to the nation to explain the way forward and to set the framework for the referendum to be held.”

There has been much public debate surrounding the legalisation of gambling over of the past few weeks, so much so, that the contentious issue has even divided the Bahamas Christian Council (BCC).

The BCC has said it is “diametrically opposed” to gambling, however, Mt. Calvary Baptist Pastor Dr. Philip McPhee believes there are benefits to be derived from its legalisation.

He recently held a discussion with several other pastors and the proprietors of numbers houses.
Despite his stance, the pastor says has never gambled and does not intend to change, even if the law changes.

The Mount Calvary Baptist pastor’s stance on gambling shocked many in the religious sector who questioned why a clergyman would support the illegal trade.

While shying away from getting involved in the back and forth, head of the local Roman Catholic Church Archbishop Patrick Pinder reiterated his church’s position yesterday, which is, that it does not support the legalisation of gambling.

July 20, 2012

The Bahama Journal