During a meeting yesterday, the Bahamas Government put forward the promise of holding a referendum on a national lottery, with also the decriminalisation of regulation of “numbers” houses in an effort to woo the public’s opinion on the current stance of gambling.
Prime Minister Perry Christie gave a speak from the Throne, stating that it would be the people of Bahamas that would ultimately decide the fate of the country and not the politicians. He said:
“In accordance with its Charter for Governance, my government will also hold a referendum for the Bahamian people to decide whether a national lottery should be instituted and/or whether webshop-type gaming should be decriminalised but nonetheless regulated in accordance with internationally accepted best practices and in a way that would ensure revenue generation for the country.”
Despite these promises, it is noted that this is not the first time that a referendum on gambling has been promised in the Bahamas. Former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham in 2010 had stated that his government was placing legalization and regulating of local number houses under consideration for further progression in Bahamas, but nothing came of it as a result.
It was however stated otherwise, after consultation “with a wide range of community leaders and other citizens, including leaders of the church, the government has decided not to proceed with the legalization of the numbers business.”
Mr Ingraham’s had also stated that his government had also decided to hold against a referendum before the general election as it was likely to become too confusing and he did not want to “mix the two up.”
Currently in the country of Bahamas it is illegal to gamble for all legal citizens and non-citizen residents. There have only been slight indications of change but it has continued to remain a desolate area for gambling.
The introduction of gambling to the country is estimate to gather in a significant amount of revenue, with the national lottery able to pump more than $190 million into the annual economy annually.
There are currently at least 16 independent numbers houses located in the New Providence of Bahamas alone, with another six also located in Grand Bahama with an additional select few located and spread throughout the Family Islands.
The number houses employ over 3,000 Bahamians directly with an annual payrool of over $6 million per annum, according to Dicrius Ramsey, the general manager of Island Luck.
Mr Ramsey makes his case for the legalization of gambling through statements that the numbers houses have already proved fruitful and have managed to employ 2,000 Bahamians and inject $100,000 into the community organizations.
The Bahamas Christian Council has also gone on record to refute the claims that would bring gambling to the Bahamas, opposing the legalization of any form of gambling.
The BCC believe that alternative methods are more favorable to legalized gambling.