Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Free National Movement (FNM) had planned to implement a Value Added Tax (VAT) within “two to three years” ...if it had been re-elected in May 2012 ...says Zhivargo Laing

Fnm Wanted Vat In 'Two-Three Years'

January 25, 2013

Tribune Business Editor

The Free National Movement (FNM) had planned to implement a Value Added Tax (VAT) within “two to three years” if it had been re-elected in May 2012, a former Cabinet Minister yesterday saying it would “not have been fooling around with a gaming referendum”.
Acknowledging that the Government’s finances were- and continue to be - on an unsustainable path due to heavy deficit spending during the recession, Zhivargo Laing, former minister of state for finance, told Tribune Business that an Ingraham administration would have targeted VAT implementation as “an urgent priority”.
He disclosed that another part of the FNM’s ‘fiscal rebalancing’ strategy would have been to “wean” the likes of Bahamasair and the Water & Sewerage Corporation off taxpayer subsidies, potentially through full or partial privatisation.
While former prime minister, Hubert Ingraham, ruled out any attempt at tax reform during his 2007-2012 administration, Mr Laing said its focus would have turned to this had it been re-elected to office.
And he also took a thinly-veiled swipe at the Christie administration’s seeming preoccupation with Monday’s gaming poll, suggesting the Government was being distracted from more worthy issues that merited its full attention.
“We knew that passing a VAT was going to be an urgent matter, so we would not have been fooling around with a gaming referendum,” Mr Laing told Tribune Business. “A VAT would have been an urgent priority by the Ingraham administration.”
He added that, if re-elected, an Ingraham administration would have moved speedily to release a ‘White Paper on Tax Reform’, seeking to “get that [VAT] done in two-three years”.
Reminded that the former FNM administration itself had examined the potential legalisation of web shop gaming, and what needed to be done to effect this, Mr Laing said that even if a referendum/poll was required, it would not have distracted any government he was part of.
“If there was [a referendum], it wouldn’t have taken precedence over that,” Mr Laing said in relation to VAT and tax reform.
He added that an Ingraham administration would have sought to continue what it started with the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC), namely privatising state-owned entities - especially the loss-making ones - and getting them off the Government’s balance sheet.
“Whether it would have been privatisations representing some kind of private-public partnership or hybrid privatisations, the idea would have been to reduce the dependency of these entities on government subsidies,” Mr Laing told Tribune Business.
“It’s a huge part of the drain on the Government’s finances.”
Indeed, the Christie administration, through Michael Halkitis, the successor to Mr Laing in the Ministry of Finance, has articulated similar ambitions when it comes to eliminating the multi-million dollar taxpayer subsidies - running at $50-$60 million annually - to loss-makers such as ZNS, Bahamasair, the Water & Sewerage Corporation and Hotel Corporation.
The Government has also picked up where its predecessor left off when it comes to tax reform and VAT, and two other areas of focus identified by Mr Laing - better collection and enforcement of real property taxes, and a Debt Committee that is examining what can be done to reduce current and future debt servicing (borrowing) costs.
The almost-identical strategies, apart from privatisation and the timelines involved, lend credence to those who suggest that, in many cases, there are few policy differences between the FNM and the PLP - the main distinction being implementation and execution.
Mr Laing, meanwhile, acknowledged that the former Ingraham administration knew the fiscal deficits it was running - and corresponding increases in the national debt - were “unsustainable”.
“We did the kind of spending we did at the height of the recession as counter-cyclical financing,” he said. “We demonstrated what we would have done; revenue measures, spending cuts. To clear the fiscal deficit we were looking at a number of things.
“It was unsustainable, the level of deficits we were sustaining during the recession. We knew we cannot stay on that same path.
“We knew it would have an impact on our fiscal circumstances, and once the recession passed we started to take revenue measures, increasing taxes in some areas, cutting expenditure in some, and happened to be criticised by those people who refuse to do the same thing.”
Mr Laing also hit at the Progressive Liberal Party’s (PLP) criticism of holding a Mid-Year Budget between 2007 and 2012, suggesting its recent emphasis on next month’s announcement showed it had performed a policy ‘u-turn’.
“For five years they called it useless, unnecessary,” he added of the Mid-Year Budget. “I would have thought that after five years they would have abandoned that, and found a more creative and innovative way to do the public finances.
“This is supposed to be the smartest generation of people, with the smartest ideas, to turn this around.
“But this same set of people, who criticised us for spending, followed it up with even more spending at a $550 million deficit.”

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

What's the Talk after The Victorious NO Vote the January 28, 2013 Gambling Referendum

What The Web Shop Employees And Patrons Say After The Vote

Chief Reporter

WEB SHOPS throughout the country remained open yesterday despite the resounding “no” vote in Monday’s gambling referendum.

The Tribune visited a number of these establishments and spoke with employees and patrons. Many persons expressed their disappointment in the Bahamian electorate, whom they feel did not consider the “human impact” their vote would have.

Heidi Cadet, the store manager at FML’s Bridge Plaza location, said her job is important to her. The single mother of two said she currently is renting an apartment, but had dreams of one day owning her own piece of land in New Providence.

She said these dreams, at least for the time being, are now in limbo.

“This job has been good to me. I have never had a bad day here.

“I was here since 2005. I watched as this company grew from punching numbers to where we are today. I am highly disappointed in yesterday’s vote because I don’t know what is next.”

After Monday’s vote, Ms Cadet said employees at their location, and at web shops in general, are concerned that any minute now, police could break in the doors and raid them.

“I hope the Prime Minister will make the right choice. I’m prepared to live with whatever decision he makes, but the big question is, is he willing to help us if they shut us down? We can’t go to the church,” she said.

As for the referendum, Ms Cadet and other web shop employees said they felt the process was “rushed” and not properly managed.

“People didn’t know what they were voting on. To most employees this is their only means of employment. If I were to lose my job, I do not have any other options,” she said.

Echoing these sentiments was Felix Bethel, a security guard at Bahama Dreams’ head office on East Bay Street.

With a wife and 14 children, Mr Bethel said his job with Bahama Dreams is the only thing “saving him” right now.

“Without this, I don’t know where I would be. There are zero opportunities out there,” he said.

Mr Bethel said he is currently in court for child support, having been in arrears some $4,000. His job he said, is the only thing keeping him out of jail.

“I can’t go to the church and say lend me $4,000. This is not a game,” he said.

Another employee at Island Luck’s office on Bay and Armstrong Streets said she has been employed at the company for two and a half years now. However, after Monday, she said she is unsure how much longer that will be the case.

Wishing not to be identified, the employee said Monday’s vote “hurt a lot of us.”

“We don’t know if they will keep us open or closed. We are only hoping for the best.”

Damas Sainvil, a security guard at the same location, said he’s been employed now with Island Luck for three years.

Having voted “Yes” in the referendum, Mr Sainvil said he was “surprised” at the outcome.

“If you don’t have a job, you can’t live here. You have to eat. You cannot live like a dog,” he said.

With two children and a wife, Mr Sainvil said he is the sole provider in his home. He said he cannot imagine what he will do if he were to lose his job.

Temra Russell, a cashier at Bahama Dreams, told The Tribune that she felt “betrayed” by the Bahamian people.

“I feel some Bahamians don’t have your best interest at heart, taking bread out of people’s mouth,” she said.

Ms Russell’s co-worker, Kenneva Goddard, said she was scared watching the votes being counted on Monday night.

“That was my job they were dealing with. I don’t think people understood the questions. And people didn’t understand or care about what would happen to us, the employees. If I didn’t have this job I would be at home. I would have to start all over again,” she said.

January 30, 2013

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Gambling is a vice not a virtue... ...Vote NO!! ... in the January 28, 2013 Gaming Referendum

By Margery Moncrieffe

I want to share some revelation given to me by God my Father on the gambling issue. I am coming from a spiritual perspective. Anyone who is engaged in spiritual warfare or has studied it knows that demonic entities and spirits travel in groups. A personal sin is different from a national sin. When gambling is legalized nationally one can expect to see the kindred spirits to accompany it , manifesting themselves in larger numbers. These demons are murder, suicide, witchcraft, violence, lasciviousness and sexual immorality to name a few.

... I want to comment on witchcraft. Do we forget that regular gamblers use dream books, numerology, psychic dreams to give them numbers? I have a personal friend who told me she paid a Haitian to go to Haiti and ask a witchcraft worker for a number. Believe it or not? He gave her a number, she played it and won. She was able to pay off her mortgage she said. Yes that all seems good, at first, but does God tell us to consult demons for numbers or does he ask us to trust him that he can provide?? Mark 4:19, 1Timothy:9-10.

I want to challenge any gambler, especially the high rollers, that if they were to sow as much money they invest in gambling with no return, into the Kingdom of God, they would see financial blessings. I am a living witness of many seeds sowed and I watched God multiply my seed. I sowed a $100 dollar seed into a church once and the Prophet told me I would see my daughter get that particular seed returned for me a $15,000 profit, this was five years of high school I did not have to pay for, if we want to play the numbers game. The problem is most people cannot wait for the slow and steady increase from God where he builds your character to handle it. We want the get rich quick scheme, which leads to destruction. Hence the bible calls it "the deceitfulness of riches." Why? It does not last.

Has anyone done any research on the life of gamblers? How many of them have been able to keep their riches?? How do their lives end up? I know a few and all of them that I know end up broke, dead broke. Is this what we want for our nation at this time? Are we going to sell our birthright for a mess of pottage? Do we want to lose the prosperity and favour that has been upon the Bahamas for a mess of pottage? Choose wisely.

All I can say is that we will see an increase in crime, sexual immorality. poverty, and other ills if we as a nation choose this path. I am not a prophet of doom, I am just making everyone aware of the causes. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. I reiterate, choose wisely.

Margery Moncrieffe on Facebook

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Since the General Election in May 2012, the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) and Prime Minister Perry Christie have undermined the democratic process in The Bahamas... ...We suggest the Bahamian public ignore the PLP’s pro-gambling propaganda ...and vote NO in Monday January 28, 2013 Referendum

Vote no

The Nassau Guardian Editorial

We congratulate the government on its resounding success to undermine a democratic process.  The gaming referendum has descended into a political spectacle besieged by lies and pathetic explanations.  How can we place confidence in a government that belittles the intellect of Bahamians?

The Nassau Guardian will not surrender its integrity to the Progressive Liberal Party’s campaign to swindle yes votes from unsuspecting Bahamian voters.  We give this government a vote of “no” confidence and encourage our readers to do the same and vote no.

The government repeatedly denies a position on the gaming referendum, yet it continuously retracts statements from party members.  Such blatant support by the prime minister and his party reveals not only a flawed process, but a biased one as well.

On Sunday, January 20, PLP Chairman Bradley Roberts said: “The PLP urges all Bahamians to see the broader national picture and vote yes on Referendum Day.”

Roberts went on further to say: “The PLP is now obliged to encourage Bahamians to make this bold and progressive step in the economic interest of the country by voting yes on Referendum Day.”

This was said only for the chairman to retract his party’s position later that day.

“It is well documented that I support a yes vote in the upcoming referendum and I do so proudly,” Roberts said.

“Many in my party agree; some do not.”

For a prime minister who did not want his party to influence votes, many of his party members have been vocal supporters of the yes vote in the referendum.  Christie skirts the issue of his position with forward-leaning statements on the anticipation of web shops being made legal.

“People are anticipating that it would be legal.  So when we started off and I talked about a limited amount of licenses, it will be interesting to see how many applications there will be in the event of a yes vote because there has been a tremendous increase,” he said.

But Christie meets a potential no vote with apprehension and reiterates the problems and costs of enforcement.

“Whether it’s a no vote, it’s going to be a tremendous cost.  The state will have to pay for directing resources to assist in setting up a regime to enforce the no vote and that will require a significant amount of money.  And I presume those people who [are] advocating are aware of that,” he said.

Furthermore, Christie laments the impossible nature of stopping Internet-based gaming and cites the possibility that Craig Flowers may continue operations from the Turks and Caicos unimpeded.

“Mr. Flowers, I’m advised, is licensed in the Turks and Caicos Islands to conduct gaming and I presume that he is able to do that and still conduct his Internet gaming from the Turks and Caicos,” he said.

“I don’t want to suggest anything otherwise.  What we have to deal with is how does one go about addressing Internet gaming.  It’s a very difficult subject – the impossibility of stopping people from what they want to do.  Laws haven’t been designed by man that have effectively stopped that kind of illegal or irregular operation.”

Though Christie bemoans the annoyances of a no vote above, such statements pale in comparison with his brazen comments that a no vote would lead to unemployment and higher taxes.

“We are going to have a real situation that we would be confronted by for a no vote, because yes these people will either have to go deeper underground illegally or we will have to find a way to find alternative employment for them,” he said.

The proliferation of illegal gaming operations has allowed for the employment of numerous people.  However, for the prime minister to indicate that a Bahamian voter who votes no is responsible for this possibility of unemployment is unacceptable.

It is absolutely astounding that the prime minister can claim no position when he continues to reiterate the problems of a no vote.

Christie as prime minister of The Bahamas is being less than honest with all of his utterances on the referendum other than for his outright preference for a yes vote.

Since the election in May 2012, the PLP and Christie have undermined the democratic process in The Bahamas.  We suggest the Bahamian public ignore the PLP’s pro-gambling propaganda and vote no on Monday.  Misleading statements inherently breed distrust and this government has made a mockery of the referendum process.  The Bahamas needs more than ever a prime minister who upholds his position and leads Bahamians.

January 24, 2013

thenassauguardian editorial

Monday, January 21, 2013

Dr. Andre Rollins, Chairman of The Gaming Board says that: ... there is more to be gained from a yes vote than a no vote in the upcoming referendum

Gaming Chairman Pushes Yes Vote

By The Bahama Journal

Chairman of The Gaming Board Dr. Andre Rollins indicated yesterday that there is more to be gained from a yes vote than a no vote in the upcoming referendum.

Dr. Rollins in a press release pushed the benefits of a yes vote for The Bahamas saying that the revenue generated from taxing the activity presents greater results for the country.

While Dr. Rollins acknowledges that it has taken far too long for any government to gather the will power to take legal action against web shop gaming in The Bahamas, he claims that it cannot be argued that 50-plus years is insufficient time to know whether or not something should be regulated or taxed for the benefit of our country and people.

“Based on the long history of Bahamian participation in games of chance and the recognition that historical legal restrictions precipitated the creation of illegal gaming enterprises, it is inevitable that the demand for such activity will persist beyond January 28 even in the face of a no vote,” he said.

“The difference is that the government will be under greater pressure to use its law enforcement resources to respond to illegal gaming – resources that are scarce and themselves under increasing pressure to address the scourge of violent crime affecting parts of our country,” he added.

According to the chairman, regularised web shop gaming is critical for the country if it wishes to maintain its standing as a responsible financial services jurisdiction compliant with international anti-money laundering and anti-terrorism best practices.

“Our nation’s financial regulatory regime and the reporting requirements it imposes on businesses engaged in financial services, cannot be effective if it ignores a large group of businesses which conduct significant financial transactions,” he said.

“Our country must be seen to be continuing along a progressive path of reform not just in the eyes of the international community, but also in the eyes of our citizens. The government cannot be perceived as being guilty of engendering a culture where laws are selectively observed and applied; where law enforcement and not justice is blind,” he added.

The Gaming chairman claims that there are number of benefits for the government and the citizens alike to be gained from a ‘yes vote’ and that these ‘good causes’ must be identified.

Dr. Rollins said that regulating gaming for locals would be a new way for the government to create revenue which could be utilised for education purposes like schools and scholarships, healthcare, sports, the disabled, senior citizens, public housing and transportation, historic preservation and youth programmes.

If the outcome of the referendum is no, according to Dr. Rollins it will be an expression of the nation’s wish to deny Bahamians the right to participate in gaming, excluding those persons employed in hotel casinos.

“To continue to allow gaming houses in The Bahamas to exist without appropriate regulatory controls creates the potential for the infiltration of and control by criminal entities, which could very easily produce adverse domestic and international consequences,” he said.

“If Bahamians wish to have access to gaming as a form of entertainment it must be understood that it is unacceptable for it to continue in an unregulated manner. The position of this government must be clear: We cannot regulate the sector in part; it must be regulated as a whole,” he added.

The gambling referendum is scheduled for January 28th, with advanced voting today.

January 21, 2013

The Bahama Journal

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Prime Minister Perry Christie's Statements on Web-shops... and the Approaching Gambling Referendum are Very Concerning...

Prime Minister’s Statement….Very Concerning!

For Immediate Release
January 17, 2013

In a recent interview, Prime Minister Perry Christie espoused that the country would have a dilemma if the electorate vote against regularizing the web-shops. He said that if they do not regularize web-shops, people will have to go deeper underground illegally or we will have to find a way to find alternative employment for them.

In addition the Prime Minister stated that his administration will not move on closing the web-shops before the referendum and he continued by saying that it will take a lot of effort and costs a lot of money so to do. The Prime Minister’s words were, “I would not dare open my mouth and tell them they cannot be employed with the yes vote people who they are working for. I would not dare do that because no one else is helping them – social services in some instances will help with rent payments but they need jobs”. The Prime Minister went on to say that, “the government has to be prepared to find jobs and that everyone knows what the economy of the Bahamas is facing”. In this regard, may I remind the Prime Minister of his election campaign promise when the PLP convinced the Bahamian people that they had the answer to job creation.

In the Bahamas it is generally accepted that the web-shop gaming is illegal. There is no legislation on this activity and there is no proposed legislation for the Bahamian people to consider. Surprisingly, the Commissioner of Police a few days ago said that he was too tolerant with this illegal activity. No doubt, if web-shop gaming was legal, we would not be having this discussion.

I am of the view that something is terribly wrong when the Prime Minister of the Bahamas uttered those words…trying to justify an illegal act! Moreover the Prime Minister was very much out of order and I dare say had no authority to make such a pronouncement. If an act is illegal, The Prime Minister does not determine if the illegal act ought to continue. It is the Commissioner of Police to act on the illegality! Now I know that the Prime Minister is in a very difficult position. The fact of the matter is that illegal gaming in the Bahamas has continued to prosper because successive governments have become “silent partners” in these entities by allowing them to operate and refusing to uphold the law of the land. But Mr. Prime Minister…right is right and wrong is wrong!

The Prime Minister of this beloved Bahamas should never be seen to condone wrongdoing. That is what our Prime Minister did. Leaders must lead by example and this is a very poor example to set. No wonder there are some persons in this country that have a blatant disregard for the laws of the land.

No doubt the international community is also watching this process and I am most concern of their perception of our Prime Minister and consequently the Bahamas as a result of the Prime Minister’s comments.

Following up on these comments by the Prime Minister, Mr. Christie is still adamant that he does not have “a horse in the race”. In my view, the Prime Minister made his position quite clear as to what he would like to see transpire on the 28th January 2013, but in any event, we as a people should know what our Prime Minister’s position is on this issue. At the very least, the Prime Minister’s constituents ought to know his position. As a matter of fact…they should insist.

Branville McCartney
DNA Leader

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Hon. Dr. Hubert A. Minnis - Free National Movement (FNM) leader says that the gambling referendum is a "royal mess"... and that The Bahamas has once again become "A Nation for sale!" ... ...IF YOU DON'T KNOW, VOTE NO!

Free National Movement
Press Conference
Wednesday January 16th, 2013

Final Position on the Gambling Referendum
January 16th, 2013

In a Press Conference held at the FNM Headquarters today, FNM Party Leader, Hon. Dr. Hubert A. Minnis stated that the referendum is a "royal mess" and that The Bahamas has once again become "A Nation for sale!"

Dr. Minnis has charged that the PLP government has made no reasonable efforts to answer the dozens of questions posed by the Free National Movement regarding the referendum, and that despite their stated position of no horse in the race, everything the Prime Minister has said has suggested otherwise. He said that the government has also failed to produce the draft regulations on gambling which were promised, but has instead kept the people in the dark.

Dr. Minnis: "Perry Christie is another Otis Redding, singing DREAMS, DREAMS DREAMS TO REMEMBER! The PLP sold a dream on mortgages, dreams on national health insurance, and dreams of employment. Perry Christie and the PLP, sold Dreams Dreams Dreams to remember!"

Dr. Minnis stated that the referendum process is being rushed and is flawed. In the absence of the necessary information, The Free National Movement party recommends that Bahamians vote NO on BOTH questions on the upcoming referendum.


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The gambling debate / Referendum 2013:... ...Michael Burke, a reformed gambling addict, who was disbarred after stealing nearly $2 million from his clients ...recently warned that up to 30,000 Bahamians could develop a compulsive gambling problem ...if the numbers racket is legalised in The Bahamas

Make Web Shops Contribute Towards Gambling Treatment- Reformed Addict Speaks Out

By Rogan Smith
The Bahama Journal

The Christie administration is being advised to get an agreement from web shop operators stating that they will contribute a percentage of their revenue towards treatment for gambling addiction if Bahamians vote to legalise gambling this month.

Michael Burke, a reformed gambling addict, who was disbarred after stealing nearly $2 million from his clients, recently warned that up to 30,000 Bahamians could develop a compulsive gambling problem if the numbers racket is legalised.

The Michigan resident, who wrote the book, “Never Enough: One Lawyer’s True Story Of How He Gambled His Career Away,” said the government needs to lock in an agreement before issuing any licences.

“My suggestion is, get an agreement beforehand, before any of the licences are issued so that they can set aside part of that money for the treatment of the individuals in the families who will be destroyed because of this activity,” he said.

“If you do it before the licences are granted, I guarantee you the people in the [web] caf├ęs will say ‘fine, we’ll pay it, we want to help those people out.’ But, if you wait until after the licences are issued they will never speak to you again. All they will say is ‘we’re paying our taxes; we’re doing what we’re bound to do.’ You want to get this done before this is signed into law. Once it’s signed into law this aspect of it is finished because you must accept what’s coming next.”

Burke predicted that if Bahamians vote to legalise web shop gaming the number houses will be transformed into mini casinos.

“Somewhere down the road this is what happens once you bring gambling into your community,” he said.

“For the small amount of people who are going to be affected, my God, do something for them up front. All they have to do is get an agreement to take two or three per cent of the cafes’ revenue from the lotteries and put it aside.”

He urged the government to follow Louisiana’s lead. The US state implemented CORE, Center of Recovery. CORE was conceived in 1998 with the sole purpose of providing treatment for those whose lives have been adversely affected by gambling.

Gambling addicts can go to CORE free of charge.

Burke said while he understands that the government does not want to raise taxes, taxing web shops is a “regressive tax.” He noted that poor Bahamians will mostly be impacted.

“The government doesn’t have the will or the stomach to raise taxes. Because of that, you’re going to have a growth of gambling that is going to be unbelievable.”

On January 28, Bahamians will decide whether they want games of chance legalised.

The church is divided on the issue. Some claim its “destructive” while others believe the government could benefit from the increased revenue that taxing web shops would bring.

“I’ve always felt the issue of morality belongs to the churches. I know you have strong churches in The Bahamas and I’ve read some things that are troubling where some churches say that this is no longer a bad activity,” Burke said.

“Governments use it as a way of raising money. As long as the people of your community tell their politicians ‘we don’t want to pay anymore taxes; you’ve taxed us to death’ they’ll find ways like gambling to raise the money. The government is going to do what it needs to do to raise funds until the people get back to the point where they say, ‘this isn’t how we want to pay for our services; tax us all equally and we’ll pay’.”

Burke’s gambling addiction not only cost him his reputation, it cost him his career.

The author comes from a family of attorneys. His grandfather was an attorney and a judge at the Nuremberg War Crime Trials after the Second World War. His father was also an attorney and headed the State Liquor Control Commission for the state of Michigan.

In his book, he details the ugly side of his addiction. He forged his wife’s signature to remortgage their home and he stole money from 15 of his law firm’s clients.

Some of those clients have since been paid back in full, thanks to the insurance company, which paid close to $1 million to make amends. He now owes that amount to the company.

He also served time in Jackson State Prison, the largest walled prison in the world.

There, he shared space with “some of the most terrible people you’d ever find.”

At the time of his sentencing each of his victims was allowed to make a statement.

“As I was putting the book together I decided that one way I could show respect for my victims was to begin each chapter of the book with a quote from one of the victims taken from the sentencing transcript. That afternoon, I sat in a courtroom where I had practiced law for 25 years and listened to my clients explain how my actions had affected their lives,” he said.

“I cannot describe the pain it brought to me and the pain endured by my clients. Following is the quote from Chapter 1. ‘I’ve known Mike and his family for 15 years. Our daughters are good friends. We have common friends in this courtroom right now and it really pains me. I’m sure his family feels the same devastation my family has felt. But….when I look at Mike I don’t see him as a victim of gambling addiction. I see him as a cold, calculating criminal’.”

While Burke says the vast majority of people can gamble without any harmful consequences.

Studies have shown that only a small percentage of people develop a compulsive gambling problem.

“Unfortunately that small percentage of the population turns out to be a large number of people. And that number has a staggering effect on family and friends. I strongly suggest to my friends in recovery for substance abuse (alcoholism) that they should never gamble. The vast majority of compulsive gamblers I have met come from a substance abuse background, either themselves or somewhere in their family history,” he said.

He can be reached at

15 January 2013

Jones Bahamas

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The upcoming gambling referendum is not about PLP or FNM... ...It is about country first... ...The way to box the choice on January 28 is to vote NO on web shop gaming ...and to vote YES on a national lottery

For sake of country: Vote no on web shops
Front Porch


The biggest loser in a yes vote to “support the regulation and taxation of web shop gaming” will be the Bahamian people.  It should be noted that while that is the language of the proposed referendum question, the issue is really whether to legalize what is currently a criminal enterprise.

The chief honchos of a yes vote on web shops want a no vote on a national lottery: Just about everybody wins with a national lottery, while only a few win with the legalization of web shops.
For the sake of country, Bahamians should vote no to the greed of a few who may literally laugh all the way to the bank, if not seek to open a bank, to deposit their jackpot of profits galore.
The crap game to allow for the legalization of web shops has generally been promoted by a coalition of self interests bent on maximizing personal gain and greed at the expense of the broader interests of the vast majority of Bahamians.

The big winners in a yes vote may be a briar patch of certain criminal enterprises and their paid agents, alongside a wheel of fortune of certain politicians in hock to their paymasters.
Then there are certain reverend gentlemen who are delighted to have the money changers right up front in the sanctuary of the temple.  The love of money may be the root of certain evil inasmuch as it may be the root of hypocrisy of biblical proportions.

The legalization of all forms of gambling is opposed by some.  For others, various forms of gambling are not inherently unethical.  For the latter, the ethical and policy questions concern what forms of gambling and how gambling is to be administered, regulated and taxed.

These ethical and policy questions involve what kind of lottery system would be best for the country in terms of who would receive the greater benefit of funds generated by a lottery.


With a national lottery, most of the funds should go to the Public Treasury, utilized for public purposes like a greater number of scholarships for students, more financial support for culture, sports, youth programs and other initiatives of social good.

A concern and caveat: It remains uncertain what the government means by a national lottery, who will run such an enterprise, and how profits are to be distributed.

But, if there is a majority yes vote on a national lottery, it can be redeveloped into a more progressive lottery over time if the current administration fails to develop the type of national lottery more beneficial to the greater good.

In voting yes for web shops, the bulk of the millions would be jammed into the already overflowing coffers and overstuffed vaults of a few to be used for their private pleasure, making some people wealthier while starving the public purse of badly needed funds needed to empower working Bahamians.

In saying yes to web shops, voters would be saying a resounding no to the needs of the children and future generations of Bahamians.  In terms of social justice and the needs of the poor and working class Bahamians, a government-owned national lottery is overwhelmingly more in the interest of the country.

The intense yes vote drive for web cafes has littered the country with billboards, t-shirts, broadcast commercials, social media efforts, jingles, giveaways, rum-soaked parties and other means of enticing and inducing voters.

Was any of the largesse for this slick campaign from illegally-derived funds?  What does it say about our democracy if the funds for certain campaigns related to the yes vote are not from legal sources?  And how much have they spent?  Millions?

Does the Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority (URCA) have reason to investigate the source of funds being used to run certain broadcast ads?


The yes vote extravaganza has a democratic right to engage in such an orgy and frenzy of enticement and inducement.  Yet it has mostly been unseemly.  Some of the activities coincided with the Christmas season, mocking the spirit of gift-giving by raffling gifts more out of seeming self-interest than true generosity.

In many lower income neighborhoods there are signs encouraging poorer Bahamians to vote yes to further enrich numbers bosses secure in gated enclaves where they may count their many millions in splendor and comfort.

What will help to educate and empower greater numbers of poorer Bahamians will be the greater amount of dedicated funds from a national lottery rather than the lesser amount of taxes derived from the proceeds of web shops.

It is nauseating to watch as some pretend to be Robin Hood, though they more resemble the Sheriff of Nottingham, who happily banked the wealth of the poor to enrich his pocket and ambitions.  And, make no mistake, the web shop millions are made up of the dollars of many Bahamians who can least afford it.

The ratings group Moody's Investors Service recently “downgraded its sovereign credit rating for The Bahamas by one notch to Baa1, citing limited economic growth prospects”.

With the need for increased revenues relative to the government’s annual deficit and the country’s overall debt, a national lottery would generate a greater amount of funds dedicated to various areas of the national budget, especially those areas that are likely to be the first victims of spending cuts.

A national lottery is no panacea on issues of deficit and debt.  But a national lottery may better help to address both more so than legalizing web shops, from which the country would generate less critically needed revenue.

Those uncertain as to whether they will vote, have a self-interest and a patriotic obligation to vote.  In abstaining from voting, one may very well help advance the narrower interests of some.

The upcoming referendum is not about PLP or FNM.  It is about country first.  The way to box the choice on January 28 is to vote no on web shops and to vote yes on a national lottery.


Monday, January 7, 2013

I support a national lottery, web shop gaming and casino gambling for all and sundry... ...The upcoming January 28, 2013 referendum is shamelessly flawed in the absence of the casino gambling question...

By Dennis Dames

As I listen to the various perspectives on the January 28, 2013 referendum questions, a few thoughts continue to come to mind.  The first one is: it appears to be all about satisfying web shop owners.  The next is: the lottery question looks to be a smoke screen, or a get out the vote tactic to ensure that the web shop question successfully receives the desired YES votes result at the end of the day.  The last is: The casino gambling question for natives is noticeably absent from the proposed ballot.

The latter thought is where the beef exists for me.  It is black Bahamians telling the electorate that Bahamians are not cultured enough to gamble among tourists.  They say that we do not know how to behave, and all we would do is harass the other guests.  How insulting and wicked our black leadership – after forty years of independence could be?

How could the black leadership in The Bahamas today continue to discriminate against the masses?  It is unconstitutional to provide casino gambling in The Bahamas for visitors and not Bahamians.  It would have been a golden opportunity to resolve this matter once and for all on January 28, 2013 – when the number kingpins hope to get their prize.

I support a national lottery, web shop gaming and casino gambling for all and sundry.  The upcoming referendum is shamelessly flawed in the absence of the casino gambling question – in my view.
With this in mind, this voter is not motivated to go to the polls on referendum day – January 28, 2013 - to make Flowers and company happy; and leave discrimination in place in regards to the casino gambling question for the Bahamian masses, who are primarily black people.

Caribbean Blog International

There are numerous benefits that can be derived by voting YES in the impending January 28, 2013 referendum

Why vote? Why vote yes?


This year, as we begin to celebrate 40 years of independence, the Christie administration is determined to focus the nation’s attention and get its input on several important matters that have either been present in our lives for the past four decades, or that may become an important part of our future.  In order to accomplish this objective, Mr. Christie has foreshadowed three instances in which his government will invite the populace to express its views on issues of national importance.  The first will be a non-constitutional referendum on regulating and taxing web shop operations and establishing a national lottery on January 28 of this year.

Secondly, a constitutional referendum is foreshadowed sometime before we celebrate our 40th independence anniversary. The government also plans to conduct another non-constitutional referendum on the issue of whether or not to permit oil exploration in our pristine waters sometime thereafter.

This week we would like to Consider This… in the upcoming referendum on January 28, should Bahamians vote and how should they vote?

An historical first

This month’s referendum will be the first time in Bahamian history that a non-constitutional referendum will be held.  We have heard the objections of some who ask: Why do we need a referendum on these matters?  The simple answer is that a referendum is not really required.  However, unlike his predecessor in office, the current prime minister is a consensus builder, a quintessential democrat who believes that such fundamental policies should be informed by public discourse, debate and deliberation, not just the Cabinet or prime ministerial directive.

The religious argument

There are some in our society who have sought to reduce their opposition to the regulation and taxation of web shops and the establishment of a national lottery to Biblical precepts.  However, they are hard-pressed to support their tenuous positions.  There is not a single, direct Biblical text which posits that participation in gaming activities is either sinful or offensive to God.  Not one!  Sure, there are some references that can be “interpreted” as tangentially supportive of such an hypothesis, but as regards a specific divine prohibition, the Scriptures are silent.  The infinitely more learned theological scholars who head the Roman Catholic, Anglican and Methodist congregations in our community have themselves resisted such an untenable translation of the Holy Scriptures.  It would be instructive for the uninformed to read the pastoral letters that were recently issued by the Roman and Anglican prelates on this subject.  So much for a firm basis for a religious argument against the subject of the referendum.

The economic argument

If we accept the assertions of experts in The Bahamas, the gaming industry here is just that – an industry.  The web shops, by their own admission, account for an annual turnover of $300 to $400 million and employ more than 3,000 Bahamians, arguably our third largest industry after tourism and financial services.  This revenue, however, remains outside the real economy because we have chosen, like the proverbial ostrich, to bury our heads in the sand and quietly pretend that it does not exist.  The unfortunate reality is that such denial has the effect of criminalizing the activity of at least 50,000 participants, keeping it in the “underground economy”, unregulated and untaxed.  The same can be said for the operators who have personified an entrepreneurial spirit.

If we conservatively accept that the taxes that we do not collect from this industry represent at least $10 million annually, an extremely conservative estimate by any stretch, then, since our independence 40 years ago, the government has failed to collect a minimum of $400 million in tax revenue during that period from this underground economic powerhouse.  Imagine what could have been accomplished by having that kind of revenue stream in our public coffers over the past four decades.  Imagine what kind of good could be done for our future by introducing that kind of revenue stream now.

This injection of revenue does not include other benefits such as payroll, contributions to National Insurance, telecommunications and electricity income, rental income and stamp taxes from financial and real estate transactions, just to mention a few.

The ethical argument

There are ethical considerations that should be factored into the gaming equation.  The current state of affairs criminalizes persons – both operators and participants – who engage in such gaming activities.  On the one hand, because of the existing legal construct, we have accepted that it is perfectly permissible for Bahamians to participate in lotteries and other gaming activities when we travel abroad.  However, the minute we return to our shores, we are instantaneously morphed into criminals if we wish to engage in the very same activity in which we participated abroad.  This reality represents the highest form of hypocrisy and is symptomatic of a severe case of national schizophrenia.  Such behavior results in a form of national insanity that borders on the idiotic.

Why vote? Why vote yes?

There are numerous benefits that can be derived by voting yes in the impending referendum.

• A yes vote will legally recognize a reality that has been an integral and ingrained part of our community and culture for many decades.

• A yes vote will positively contribute to our national coffers by providing additional revenue that is presently beyond the reach of the government.

• A yes vote will enable us to truly diversify our economy.

• A yes vote will foster a well-regulated industry that will emerge from the shadows into the light.

• A yes vote will open a new industry not only for the present operators, but also for those who qualify for future operations.

• A yes vote will open this industry to also include groups of entrepreneurial Bahamians as well as companies who could finance their gaming enterprises by offering shares to the public, making this industry truly open and owned by the public.

• A yes vote will enable the government to have additional funds to allocate for education, sports, culture and public health initiatives.

• A yes vote will open the possibility of creating a school of entrepreneurship established by these Bahamian entrepreneurs who can also impart their industry experience by mentoring young Bahamians.

• A yes vote will prevent us from having to continue to expend exponentially large funds in policing an illegal and unregulated industry.

• A yes vote will enable us to prevent the possibility of falling into the trap of having our country blacklisted by powerful forces beyond our borders who will surely insist that we are contributing to money laundering and the funding of terrorist activities.


In the upcoming referendum on January 28, it will be important to exercise our right as citizens to be heard when our government asks our opinion.  If we do not use this, our very first opportunity to be heard in this manner, we endanger ever being asked again.  This is an expensive exercise that government will not likely undertake again if the citizens do not respond.  Should the turnout be small, history will see this as a setback to the broader and more inclusive new democracy we are being offered with this referendum.

On referendum day, it will be important for us to vote and to vote yes.

Philip C. Galanis is the managing partner of HLB Galanis & Co., Chartered Accountants, Forensic & Litigation Support Services. He served 15 years in Parliament.  Please send your comments

January 07, 2013


Friday, January 4, 2013

2013 Gambling Referendum Issues: ... ...since we are dealing with gaming ...the question as to whether Bahamians and permanent residents ought to be allowed to gamble in the casinos of The Bahamas should have been a consideration by way of the impending January 28, 2013 referendum

Democratic National Alliance (DNA) Press Release: Christie Government....A Missed Opportunity

Three weeks before the Referendum on Gaming, the Christie Administration has revealed the questions to be posed on the 28th January 2013. In a National Address to the nation last night, the Honorable Dr. Bernard Nottage said that the two questions are: Do you support the regulation and taxation of web shop gaming and do you support the establishment of a National Lottery?

There are concerns with these questions as presented.

Firstly, are the two questions going to be on the same ballot or will there be two distinct questions? This has to be clarified and we ask the government to clarify their position as soon as possible.

Secondly, in connection with the question…Do you support regulation and taxation of web shop gaming, this question presupposes the legalization of web shops. The question should have been, “Do you support the legalization, regulation and taxation of web shop gaming?” The question for the Christie Government is what about the legalization of web shops and its operations? This concern seems to have been overlooked by the government.

The fact of the matter is that no matter how you vote in connection with this question, there is a predetermined position. If you vote yes…then regulation and taxation would be in place. If you vote no…then web shops and their operations would remain in the same position as they were prior to the referendum. I ask the government to kindly answer this particular concern. What happens to the web shops if there is a no vote for its regulation and taxation?

In addition, what regulations are we, the Bahamian people voting for? This government has not informed the Bahamian people of this information. Do they intend to do so before the referendum? I think it is necessary. Further, how would taxation be effected? We have no answers to this! If it is regulated, are there going to be any sanctions placed on those who were operating unregulated for all these years? What would be the preconditions to those who wish to be regulated?

In connection with the question on the establishment of a National lottery, what has caused the Prime Minister to change his mind on this question? You would indeed remember that during the election campaign the Prime Minister said that they would hold a referendum on whether there ought to be a national lottery. After the election, the Prime Minister said that he consulted with a foreign entity and was advised that a national lottery would not work in the Bahamas. This certainly is indicative that the Prime Minister did not do his research prior to the election and during the campaign said certain things for political expediency! Now the Prime Minister has placed the question of the National Lottery on the ballot. The question we, as Bahamians, would like to know is what changed the Prime Minister’s mind. We have not todate seen the report as mentioned previously, we are not aware of how much we, the Bahamian people, had to pay for the said report and no explanation has been given to the Bahamian people as to why the Prime Minister is now rejecting the conclusion of the report. The Prime Minister was elected by the Bahamian people to act on their behalf and in the best interest of the Bahamian people. We are entitled to know the answers to these questions!

Finally, since we are dealing with gaming, the question as to whether Bahamians and permanent residents ought to be allowed to gamble in the casinos should have been a consideration by way of referendum.

The government has a lot of questions to answer and again has missed a prime opportunity to properly enhance our democracy!

Branville McCartney
DNA Leader

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The January 28, 2013 Gambling Referendum Questions are: ...Do you support the regulation and taxation of Web Shop gaming? and... Do you support the establishment of a National Lottery?

Gambling Referendum Questions Revealed

Tribune Staff Reporter

THE TWO questions for the January 28th gambling referendum that will decide the future of gambling in the Bahamas were revealed last night by National Security Minister Dr Bernard Nottage.

In his national address to the country, Dr Nottage announced the questions in accordance with the order of Governor-General Sir Arthur Foulkes who, yesterday, ordered for a referendum on the issue to be held on January 28.

“As stipulated by that order,” Dr Nottage said, “Bahamians will be presented with two questions.”

“The first question reads as follows; Do you support the regulation and taxation of Web Shop gaming? The second question reads as follows; Do you support the establishment of a National Lottery?”

Voters, he added, in accordance with section 59 of the 2012 Referendum Regulations, must “place one cross only in the space opposite the word ‘yes’ if he supports the question, or in the space opposite the word ‘no’, if he does not support the question.”

“Fellow Bahamians, the procedures to be followed in the conduct of this national Referendum for the most part mirror those that are followed in voting at General Elections for members of the House of Assembly. However, in the case of a Referendum there are no political candidates. Instead, as indicated there are questions to which the voter is to answer either “yes” or “no”. A “Yes” vote means you support the question and “No” vote means you do not.”

“The result of the poll will be determined by a simple majority of the number of “Yes” versus the number of

“No” votes”, the national security minister said.

The Parliamentary Commissioner will hold a briefing session with Local Observers to advise them of their role in the referendum prior to the advanced poll.

Dr Nottage also emphasized that only those who were eligible to vote in last year’s general elections will be allowed to vote in the polls of the gambling referendum.

“Persons who reached the age of eighteen (18) after May 7th and all other eligible Bahamians who have not yet registered may still do so. The voters register will close on the 10th January 2012. Anyone not registered by then will not be eligible to vote.”

In last night’s address, important dates in lead up to January 28’s referendum were also touched on.

The Parliamentary Commissioner will publish notification of the Referendum tomorrow January 4. The Voter Register closes on January 10 and January 19, the Voter Register will be certified by the parliamentary commissioner.

Regarding persons interested in voting but unavailable on the day in question due to being out of the jurisdiction or other reasons, the minister said that an advanced poll will take place on January 21.

“On Monday, 21st January, 2013 an advanced poll, inclusive of overseas voting, will take place. Qualified persons who are desirous of voting in the advance poll either as an overseas voter or a special voter have until Thursday, 10th January, 2013 to submit the relevant completed application form to the Parliamentary Commissioner.”

“For those persons who reside overseas, a completed Form J must be submitted. Special voters, namely election officials, those who on referendum day are likely to be hospitalized, undergoing medical attention, etc., must complete Form K.”

While it was noted that there would be no election agents in the referendum, regulations “empower” the minister to appoint a maximum of three local observers per polling station to ensure fairness of the process “including at least two persons representing the views of those members of the public interested in the “yes” and “no” vote.”

“The appointment of the Local Observers shall be made in writing and signed by the Minister,” he added.

The minister concluded his address by highlighting the importance of the populace voicing their issue and position on the regulation and taxing of Web Shops and the establishment of a National Lottery.

“Let me remind you, that while for the purposes of the efficient management of the Referendum you will be voting within your constituency, the results of the Referendum will be determined by a simple majority of the total number of votes cast nationally for each question.”

“The Government is committed to participatory democracy and believes in the timeless tenet that public policy should consistently reflect the collective will, desires, aspirations and sensibilities of you the Bahamian people. We pledge to be guided by this fundamental ethical and democratic principle through all of our deliberations on your behalf.”

“The Government of The Bahamas encourages all Bahamians to exercise their right, to express their views freely, to conduct themselves peacefully and to be tolerant of the views of others,” he concluded.

January 03, 2013

In waging a $1,500,000.00 (One Million Five Hundred Thousand Dollars) fight for the YES votes in the impending - January 28, 2013 - gambling referendum... the numbers men are doing more than attempting to legalize their web shop businesses.... ...They are challenging the role of the church in the modern Bahamas

What a ‘Yes’ vote could mean for the church

thenassauguardian editorial

The Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) and Free National Movement (FNM) have historically dared not cross the church for decades on the issue of gambling for Bahamians in The Bahamas. Instead, both parties as governments turned away and did not see the numbers houses.

In recent years, with the rise of Internet technology and steely boldness, the numbers men of old and their new contemporaries came from the shadows and openly set up illegal shops in front of the political parties and police, declaring to Bahamians that they are now forces who will no longer accept being repressed.

The numbers bosses now sponsor charitable events, advertise and one has even donated openly to at least one government agency.

The Bahamas is a very protestant nation with the overwhelming majority of its people identifying themselves as Christians. Churchgoing is high. Consequently, the political parties have not wanted to face­off against a church that, for the most part, has been rabidly against gambling.

Despite this fear by our great political parties, the numbers bosses have now decided that it is time to demonstrate to the church of Christ and its Bahamian leaders that they do not fear them. They have set up a lobby and have let it be known that $1.5 million will be spent in an advertising effort to win the referendum scheduled for Monday, January 28. Via this act, they have declared opposition to the church.

This newspaper also reported yesterday that members of the ‘Vote Yes’ campaign and four pastors who are pushing for the regularization of the numbers business may join forces to push their cause. Members of the ‘Vote Yes’ campaign have also met with Prime Minister Christie to discuss the upcoming gambling referendum.

The Bahamian church is not used to this direct a challenge. It has historically been able to shout down adversaries on the gambling issue. Now, with a referendum having been pledged, the church has an opponent.

The stakes are high for this referendum. In our modern history the church has felt it had the upper hand on issues such as this. A defeat here will lessen the perceived power of the church. It would also demonstrate that well ­funded lobbies on moral issues could win against the church in a public fight.

What would a defeated church do? If it preaches to its members to vote against the legalization of gambling and those members overwhelmingly disobey their pastors, that act of defiance by Bahamians would demonstrate that though many sit in pews on Sundays, they do not listen to the people who speak to them with full regard.

In waging a fight in this referendum the numbers men are doing more than attempting to legalize their businesses. They are challenging the role of the church in the modern Bahamas.

The pastors who like to make statements on this and that moral issue need to know that on the issue of gambling they are in a fight for legitimacy. Certainly, if the church loses it will not be totally illegitimate and irrelevant. It would just fall a notch in influence. And the next time a group thinks about challenging the church, if it loses this referendum fight, that group won’t be as afraid, further expanding secularism in The Bahamas.

January 03, 2013

thenassauguardian editorial

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

...infractions and environmental issues in shanty towns ...throughout the islands of The Bahamas

Special Project Unit Created to Address Shanty Towns

By Elcott Coleby
Bahamas Information Services

The Minister for The Environment and Housing, the Hon. Kendred Dorsett updated the public today on the policy steps his Ministry is taking to proactively address building code infractions and other environmental issues surrounding the proliferation of shanty towns throughout the country. According to Minister Dorsett, a Special Project Unit (SPU) was created within his ministry to address the housing and environmental health issues associated with shanty towns.

“The Department of Environmental Health Services has created a Special Project Unit headed by Assistant Director, Lennard Miller, to address infractions and environmental issues in shanty towns throughout the islands of The Bahamas. Existing reports on identified shanty towns in Nassau, Abaco, Exuma and Eleuthera are being updated and new reports are being prepared in respect of shanty towns for which the DEHS (Department of Environmental Health Services) has not conducted an investigation” said the Minister.

Minister Dorsett also advised that the DEHS will fully enforce the law where there are instances of infractions under the Environmental Health Services Act. He pointed out that the SPU “will complete its comprehensive report by the end of January, 2013 and the DEHS is also establishing an Enforcement Unit, which will focus on prosecutions of infractions under the Environmental Health Services Act”.

December 28, 2012