Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The government may not include the question of a national lottery on the upcoming gambling referendum ...after consultants had expressed concerns over the feasibility of such a scheme ...says Prime Minister Perry Christie

Lottery question may not make it to referendum

Guardian Senior Reporter

The Christie administration may not include the question of a national lottery on the upcoming gambling referendum after British consultants expressed concerns over the feasibility of such a scheme, Prime Minister Perry Christie revealed yesterday.

Christie spoke to The Nassau Guardian minutes after he and Tourism Minister Obie Wilchcombe, who has responsibility for gaming, ended a conference call with the consultants in London.

He said the advisors expressed worries that a national lottery catering to a small country like The Bahamas might not be as attractive as larger games of chance with higher cash prizes in the nearby United States.

“The consultants have a number of concerns about the feasibility of a lottery in the sense of whether or not there is a sufficient market here to sustain a lottery as opposed to web shop operations,” Christie said, after Cabinet broke for lunch. “Again, we indicated that what we have to do is determine whether the lottery would be a lottery of 300,000 Bahamians or five million visitors that come to The Bahamas or if it’s on the Internet whether there is anything to prevent people in Florida from being a part of the lottery that takes away from Bahamian winnings.

“One of the considerations obviously is that we give very careful consideration to whether or not we want to proceed with the lottery as opposed to the web shops.”

When asked if the question of a national lottery might no longer be included in the gambling referendum, Christie said he was unsure and is awaiting more guidance from the consultants.

“It could be, I’ve indicated the question,” he said. “I don’t know, I’ve asked for a specific advice. It came up in our discussions and you rightly asked the question, the response is they had some concerns about it and they expressed those concerns. The concerns had to do with whether or not it could be a sustainable activity in The Bahamas. So we’ll look at it very carefully moving ahead.

“I said I would bring complete focus to it after the by-election.”

The prime minister said the consultants also spoke of the “urgent” need to regulate web shops due to the large sums of money passing through the establishments unchecked.

“. . .In looking at the web shop operations they have given us some reasons to consider why there is some urgency in being able to regulate them. That for really good order in the country and for consistency in terms of how you regulate people who have access to large sums of money that there is an urgency behind this whole thing that we weren’t quite aware of but now we’re bringing focus to it.”

Christie has previously said that the planned referendum on gambling will ask voters to legalize web shops and/or establish a national lottery. A date for the vote has not been set, however, the prime minister has said that he hopes the referendum would be held by the end of the year.

Christie added that the consultants indicated that government needed to tweak draft gambling legislation left in place by the Ingraham administration.

“So we have been reviewing now who we should really retain to assist us with the drafting of what can be a set of complex regulations to monitor and account for these operations,” he said.

Last week, Christie said he received the consultants’ initial report. He has now requested that the advisors present a more detailed report so that the public can have as much information on the issue ahead of the referendum.

Oct 10, 2012