Friday, September 5, 2014

Gambling with the Country’s Gaming Laws!

The Christie administration on Wednesday, tabled what was supposed to be a revised version of legislation which will govern the gaming industry in the Bahamas. The Democratic National Alliance (DNA), like scores of other Bahamians had hoped that the government’s delay in tabling the highly anticipated bill would have resulted in the presentation of a clear, concise set of laws which address issues of transparency within the sector and finally reverse years of discrimination against Bahamians in their own country.

Unfortunately however, the Minister responsible for Gaming tabled a document which not only upheld the status quo but further laid the foundation for greater levels of government corruption while attempting to appease number bosses who were major campaign contributors to the Progressive Liberal Party’s (PLP) election campaign.

The DNA, while not surprised by the government’s decision to discriminate against the country’s citizenry, is appalled by the rank hypocrisy demonstrated by a government which claims to “Believe in Bahamians”.  Just days before the tabling of the bill, the Minister intimated to the local media that the government had taken steps to eliminate all forms discrimination against Bahamians within the sector, however, true to form, the Minister, from the floor of parliament reneged on that promise.

The DNA maintains that NO FOREIGNER should be allowed to do ANYTHING that a BAHAMIAN CITIZEN CANNOT! There should be no laws which give Non-Bahamians privileges which are not enjoyed by the citizens of this country. If this administration is truly serious about giving credence to the sector ANY CHANGES must first address the issue of discrimination.

How can a government which, in recent weeks, has advocated for equality among the sexes then endorse the continued and objectionable discrimination against Bahamians wishing to participate in casino gaming? It is not only hypocritical and deceptive but further endangers any efforts by this administration to succeed in securing equal rights for Bahamian women.

The tabling of the gaming bill is a further slap in the face to the tens of thousands of Bahamians who participated in the botched gaming referendum of January 2013 and is a further testament to the inability of the Prime Minister to effectively lead the country.

By choosing to ignore the will of the people on this issue, this administration has created levels of government mistrust never before seen in this country effectively destroying public confidence in the executive and legislative arms of government; and rightfully so. Since taking office this administration has found itself ill equipped to manage countless conflict of interests, scandals and an overall lack of transparency and accountability within government ministries and departments.

Now, through the gaming legislation, this government seeks to further encourage such corruption by granting the minister unnecessary discretions over the conduct of a national lottery in addition to granting him discretion to set license fees, which according to the minister would provide greater flexibility in the amendment of the fee and/or taxation structures in the future.

The DNA asserts however that such an important decision CANNOT and SHOULD not be left solely to the discretion of any one individual. We suggest instead that responsibilities be given to an independent body which will oversee the process and ensure transparency in a sector which has for years thrived in opacity.
Branville McCartney
DNA Leader
September 04, 2014