Web shops ‘not in war with churches
By Candia Dames
Guardian Lifestyles Reporter
Web shop owners are not in a war with local churches and do not intend to fight them in the lead-up to the gambling referendum expected by year’s end, said Sebas Bastian, the spokesman for the “We Care Coalition”.
“In any talks with the church that we may have had or tried to have, it was only to form a working relationship should the business become legal,” said Bastian, owner of Island Luck.
“Together we can work and deal with any kind of social issues. It’s not in any way to gain the support of the church. The church is the church and should be the church.
“We shouldn’t expect them to campaign with us, agree with us, or whatever.”
Bastian said yesterday that the coalition of web shop owners respects the right of the church to its position, as well as the right of all Bahamians to their views on gambling.
“It’s a democratic country,” he noted. “People have their freedom to speak and ‘We Care’ has utmost respect for religious leaders.”
Bastian added, “We may be on two opposing beliefs on the issue, but in the end we share the same value. I might say let’s legalize it to help others. They are saying let’s not legalize it to help others. But in the end we’re both trying to help and that’s the way it should be perceived.”
Bastian said the referendum will not be a vote for the web shops, the church or any political party.
“It’s a vote for a Bahamian citizen to express his democratic right to choose what he or she wants to do in their country,” he said.
“So you’re not supporting anyone by voting or not voting. You’re only supporting yourself. I’m pretty sure that if a government disrupts a country to deal with an issue of such great debate, they have a plan in place that will be entirely to benefit the country at large.”
Bastian said We Care has not yet seen the plan. He also said the country appears to be wasting too much time on the gambling issue when there are more critical issues that need to be addressed.
“I would rather the [members of the] public spend a lot of time trying to be their brother’s keeper, and let’s go out there and try to help a lot of these inner city kids get back to school and focus on more important things,” he said.
Bastian said it is important that Bahamians be educated on the importance of moderation — and not just as it relates to numbers.
He said the coalition intends to stay in the background during the gambling debate, although it plans to release information from time to time.
“We are not going to campaign for a vote because a vote in the upcoming referendum is not a vote for We Care,” Bastian stressed. “It’s a vote for your democratic right to choose.”
Asked about the $1.5 million the coalition has committed to education and community initiatives, he said web shops have long been quietly supporting various national development programs and will continue to do so.
The government has not yet provided details on how a legalized numbers industry would work.
Prime Minister Perry Christie has said that if Bahamians vote against legalizing gambling, the government would strictly enforce the law.
According to Bastian, web shops employ approximately 3,000 Bahamians.
July 25, 2012