NASSAU, Bahamas, Jan 21, CMC – Chairman of the ruling Progressive Liberal party (PLP) Bradley Roberts is denying suggestions of a rift within the administration regarding the January 28 referendum on the regulation and taxation of web shop gaming and the establishment of a national lottery.
“It is well documented that I support a yes vote in the upcoming referendum and I do so proudly. Many in my party agree; some do not.
“I want to however make it abundantly clear that the official position of the Progressive Liberal Party regarding the referendum is that the Bahamian people should vote their conscience on this matter on 28th January 2013,” he said.
Earlier in an address to party supporters on the theme "Leaders who are double-minded are unstable and lack credibility,” Roberts said he wanted to set the record straight by reminding the country that the PLP had always supported the idea of a referendum on the issue and that Prime Minister Perry Christie“has never wavered or flip-flopped on this national issue.
“In our Charter for Governance the Progressive Liberal Party committed that within its first 100 days in government it would provide details for a referendum on a national lottery and gambling in The Bahamas,” he said, adding that the government had initially informed Parliament that the referendum would have been held on December 3 last year.
“Due to evolving public opinion, the Prime Minister again communicated to Parliament on November 14th 2012 that more time was needed; that the government had decided to add the question of a national lottery to the referendum and the new date of 28th January 2013 was set to hold the referendum.”
Christie told legislators then that the referendum will put to the Bahamian people the question as to whether they feel that so-called “web café” or “web shop” gaming should be legalized subject to strict licensing and bonding requirements, stringent regulatory supervision, and the payment by licensed operators of substantial license fees and taxes.
Christie, whose government came to power in the general election in May last year, said that gambling, legalization for web shop gaming owners will finalize a new source of government revenue and will facilitate new areas for local employment.
He said that a license fee, in an amount to be determined, but certainly not less than one million US dollars, coupled with a performance bond would be required to be put up upon the award of a license.
The Prime Minister said that this would be in addition to the annual taxes that would be payable, based on the revenues of the licensed web shops, similar to the taxation structure that applies to casinos.
Prime Minister Christie said that in addition to paying the license fees and taxes, web shops would also be required to contribute to the cost of implementing the new laws and regulations for web shops.
Roberts said that at all “material times the Prime Minister was open, honest, consistent, fair and demonstrated tremendous courage, character and strength in the face of bogus and intentionally misleading statements” from the main opposition Free National Movement (FNM).
He said regulating the industry will bring greater accountability and transparency and regards the situation as a “ win-win proposition for all Bahamians
“A “Yes” vote in the upcoming referendum on the 28th January 2013 legitimizes this viable and profitable industry and removes the “black market” stigma the industry carried for decades.
“A “Yes” vote eliminates the current underground cash economy connected with the industry, protects the Bahamian economy and provides a legitimate platform for expanded economic empowerment and ownership opportunities for many Bahamians.
“Roberts said that the PLP is “obliged to encourage Bahamians to make this bold and progressive step in the economic interest of the country by voting “Yes” in the referendum.
He accused the opposition FNM of having once supported the initiative, “but lacked the strength and courage to see it through on behalf of the Bahamian people.
“They now seek to sow seeds of confusion to cloud the salient issues through lies and muddy the waters to hide their narrow and selfish political interests,” he said, urging Bahamians “to see the broader national picture and vote “Yes” on referendum day.