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Bahamian Politicians and the Bahamian Political Arena: Updates one Post at a time on Bahamas Politics and Bahamas Politicans.
Thursday, November 22, 2012
The Rt. Rev'd Laish Zane Boyd on the subject of the proposed legalisation of the “numbers business” - (web shop activities) - in The Bahamas... and the upcoming gambling referendum
Anglican Minister Has Say On Gambling Legislation
A pastoral letter to the
Anglican family and the wider community on the subject of the proposed
legalisation of the “numbers business” in The Bahamas.
By REV LAISH BOYD, SR
brothers and sisters of the Anglican Family and wider community, I wish
to address you on the subject of the proposed referendum on the
legalisation of the “numbers business” in the Bahamas.
I wish to provide you with some information and also encourage broad discussion. This will aid you in your decision making.
issue is the decision of the government to hold a referendum so that
the people can decide on whether or not there should be the expansion of
gambling in the country. We understand this to mean the legalisation of
the local numbers business (web shop activities) but not a provision
for a national lottery (this statement was issued before Prime Minister
Christie added the national lottery to the referendum). The Progressive
Liberal Party promised a referendum in its pre-general election Charter
for Governance. The Free National Movement, when it was the government,
had also indicated that it would resolve the self-same question by way
of a referendum.
In 1959, the government of the Bahamas made explicit provision to legalise casino gambling in the country.
decision was made for economic reasons focused on the facilitation of
the expansion of tourism. The general public was not consulted.
1959, successive governments have increased the number of casino
operations. Gambling is a key component of our tourism product and is
also at the heart of economic activities in the country.
country as a whole was tacitly brought into the economic reality of
casinos and, thereby, legalised gambling, without paying attention to
the moral argument. Few church officials have ever suggested that their
members avoid employment in casino-related establishments.
have arisen, from time to time, protests against the denial of the
right of Bahamians to participate in casino gambling. These arguments
usually cite the provision of the Constitution against discrimination.
The government’s official reason for the denial was the desire to
protect the local citizens and residents in light of the generally
acknowledged negative impact of the Hobby Horse Race Track which was a
thriving entity at the time.
illegal numbers business has taken root over the past century. We grew
up knowing about the place of thriving establishments that were a staple
part of the Bahamian landscape and diet. The numbers business has
expanded significantly over the past decade, with the introduction of
gambling via the web shops: same concept, new packaging. Although
verifiable data is not available, there can be no doubt that a
significant number of Bahamians engage in these activities which are
regulated and controlled solely by the operators of the web shops.
Persons in the industry have said informally that there could be
150-200,000 web accounts in existence in the various web shop companies
combined in the country.
the technological basis of the web shop operations, the ability of the
police to prevent or control such operations is minute to negligible.
major political parties publicly announced their intention to hold a
referendum on the future of the web shop operations. The reasoning
behind this policy decision was the desire to bring some regulation and
control to the present “industry”, coupled with economics – as was the
case in 1959.
major political parties appear to be determined to remove these
activities from the criminal arena. Under our existing law operators of
gambling houses and persons who patronise such establishments are
breaking the law.
note that the number of “web shops” has increased tremendously all over
the Bahamas since the time of the last surge of national discussion in
2009-2010. In just those 2-3 short years the increase in these locations
has been nothing short of phenomenal. Anyone who travels the islands of
the Bahamas can attest to this.
The reasons for this are four-fold:
• The government continues to be unable or unwilling to enforce the existing law
The government continues to give licenses for web shops knowing that
the principal function of these establishments is – by far – not
providing computer caf� facilities for those who have no computer of
their own, or for children to do homework after school
Sheer supply and demand. The market forces have indicated and dictated
expansion. Enough persons want to do it to be able to sustain an
increase in the number of locations. There are even roving
“customer-service agents” with hand-held devices who come to where you
are to do business.
The freedom enjoyed by the companies involved in an industry that is
against the law. They advertise in the media, they have banded together
into an association, they are touting their contribution to society
(number of employees, salaries paid, NIB and other benefits paid, all
adding to the economy – not to mention their contributions to sports,
charitable, church and community development pursuits). They have even
indicated that they are prepared to spend more than $1 million on a
marketing campaign to ensure a favourable referendum result.
whole matter has really gotten quite out of hand and, some will argue,
is too big for even the police to reign in. Unless the government is
prepared to simply shut down these establishments “cold turkey” – which
it seems to be unprepared or unwilling to do – then the government has
no other choice than to attempt to regulate and tax the existing
industry. The Prime Minister indicated that, if the result of the
referendum did not favour the decriminalising of the numbers business,
the government would have no other choice than to shut down these
establishments. This must be taken as the government’s assertion that
these establishments can simply be “shut down.”
referendum, on any issue provides the citizens with an opportunity to
participate in the formulation of policy. While there may be cause for
some to suspect the motive behind the use of the referendum mechanism,
the right of the citizens to be consulted is an important aspect of
genuine democracy. Also, one has to respect the fact that some issues
are so significant, and represent such a major shift in policy, norms or
behaviour, that it might be best if governments seek the comment of a
majority of citizens before venturing into such a new arena.
opportunity must be provided for persons to examine the issues before
they are invited to express their ‘choice’ by way of the ballot box. The
church must be an agency that encourages dialogue and that creates a
forum for information and wholesome discussion on this and other issues,
since a part of our stewardship is being a good citizen in the country
where God has placed us. Our duty to God involves our participation in
national life. Remember the Biblical injunction: “Render to Caesar the
things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” This
calls Christians to play their part in national life and in dealing with
must be certain that persons who make a choice on this subject do so
from an informed position, ie, knowing what motivation is informing
What is gambling?
is a broad subject area encompassing games or activities involving some
risk with the potential for granting an advantage to the person or
persons who “play” or “are involved”. Some persons condemn all forms of
this activity. There are others who tolerate them in varying degrees.
For example, many persons have no difficulty with raffles and door
prizes, or with a game of bingo. These are isolated and individual
events which are usually held for fundraising and charitable causes.
Individuals will buy a raffle ticket, or a door prize ticket at an
event, or play a game of bingo and give no second thought to it; they
see it as harmless, as I believe these involvements to be.
Rodgers writes: “A small stake in a raffle for a worthy cause inflicts
no conceivable hardship on the purchaser of the ticket and is motivated
more by generous desire to help than by anticipatory greed.” This
reasoning led the 108th session of our Diocesan Synod, meeting in
October, 2008, to allow raffles in our Anglican Schools as a means of
fundraising. This came after many years of a moratorium on the holding
of raffles in the diocese that was put in place during the time of the
late Bishop Michael Eldon. Recently, the 111th Session of Synod passed
another resolution to lift that moratorium entirely and to allow
parishes also to hold raffles for fundraising purposes.
note that these two decisions have nothing to with, and are completely
unrelated to, the current discussion on the expansion of legal
opportunities for gambling. They would have occurred even if that
discussion did not take place or was not taking place.
The Anglican Church has no difficulty with raffles, door prizes or bingo.
numbers business is a completely different thing. It is a
24-hour-a-day, 7-day-a-week enterprise in which persons engage and which
is definitely habit-forming and downright addictive for a majority of
its participants. It is a system which is designed to exploit the
participants so that the few will benefit at the expense of the many.
The modern day reality is that this form of gambling is easily
accessible to all via the internet, via numerous web shops and via other
means. Persons can play with very little money. This easy access leads
to widespread use by persons of all ages, classes, backgrounds and