Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The gambling referendum debate: ...Pastors are divided over the issue of legalizing gambling for Bahamians

Hall: Pastors divided on gambling issue

By Royston Jones Jr.
Guardian Staff Reporter

Bishop Simeon Hall, pastor of New Covenant Baptist Church, said last night that while he believes most pastors share the views of the Bahamas Christian Council (BCC) on gambling in principle, division exists on whether the industry should be regularized.

“The Christian Council is divided on the issue,” Hall told around 70 people in attendance during a panel discussion at his church on the upcoming gambling referendum.

The panelists included Wallace Rolle, an attorney; Ortland H. Bodie Jr., former attorney and host of the popular radio talk show ‘Real Talk Live’, and Cedric Moss of Kingdom Life Church.

“On the one hand you will find it difficult to find a Bible quote that speaks directly against gambling, and yet on the other  the basis for all forms of gambling is covetousness, which the scripture plainly speaks against.

“One church leader is on record as saying we should raise the issue [and] expose all sides, and let the Bahamian people make up their own minds.

“As a baptist, I understand and appreciate the baptist position as being against all games of chance, and yet in light of the reality of this activity, I believe something should be done to regularize this activity.”

However, President of the BCC Dr. Ranford Patterson said just over two weeks ago that the church is not divided over the issue of legalizing gambling.

Amid comments by controversial Baptist pastor Dr. Philip McPhee, suggesting that there are potential benefits in regards to regulating the industry, Patterson said McPhee is the only clergyman who appears to be at odds with the church’s anti-gambling position, and the religious community’s movement is gaining momentum.

“Every leader of the denominations I’ve spoken to is in support; every one, there is no uproar as far as I am concerned.”

He said he believed that successive governments’ lacked the decisiveness and leadership to tackle the issue and are partly responsible for the industry’s prevalence.

“If they had nipped it in the bud some time ago, it wouldn’t be here,” Hall said.

The Christie administration plans to bring a gambling referendum by December.

The ballot will only have to options: Establishing a national lottery or legalizing numbers houses.

If Bahamians vote in support of legalizing gambling then the government will tax the industry.

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.

Hall, who also spoke to The Nassau Guardian before the panel discussion, said he invited representatives of ‘We Care’, a coalition of web shop owners, but they declined because they did not desire any further press on the issue at this time.

He said he feels that ‘We Care’ has a right to publically express its views, but hoped that its representatives will be “responsible” in educating Bahamians on the pros and cons of a regularized industry.

Spokesperson for ‘We Care’ and CEO of Island Luck Sebas Bastian has said that the coalition will invest around $1.5 million to educate Bahamians on industry-related issues over the next few months, but has insisted that web shop owners do not intend to battle local churches in the lead-up to the gambling referendum.

August 01, 2012