NASSAU, Bahamas, CMC – The Bahamas government has confirmed two senior officials from a South-African based company have visited the country assisting in the drafting of comprehensive legislation relating to lotteries and gaming.
But the main opposition Free National Movement (FNM) is accusing the Perry Christie government of having its priorities wrong as the country gears for a national referendum on the lotteries and gaming issue on January 28.
In a statement, the Office of the Prime Minister said that the visit of the two consultants was in keeping with the plans to “utilise the considerable expertise of A & G Consulting in gaming and legal drafting with a view to the early modernization of The Bahamas gaming industry in order to successfully compete with leading respected gaming jurisdictions”.
It said that while here, the consultants held discussions with the prime minister and senior members of his cabinet.
But a joint statement issued by two FNM legislators, Michael Pintard and Zhivargo Laing, the government is accused of seeking to “push through their single largest initiative since coming to office” even though it had promised voters “that they would focus on the primary issues facing Bahamians if elected.
“Nevertheless, the administration has narrowly focused on addressing the concerns of a small “special interest group” who many believe substantially financed its election campaign. The zeal with which the government has pushed this issue has left even some PLP (Progressive Liberal Party) supporters speculating about what is driving this agenda.”
The FNM said it many people were now wondering whether the government is “repaying one of its main groups of financiers” adding “it is clear that the government’s priorities are wrong. It should have been focusing on the primary issues impacting the majority of Bahamians” including job creation and growing the economy, ensuring law and order and improving the education system.
The two FNM members have also accused the ruling party of having no commitment to public education on the issue and are urging nationals to vote against the measure in the referendum.
Earlier this week, the PLP chairman Bradley Roberts denied suggestions of a rift within the administration regarding the 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.
Christie has said 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 finalise a new source of government revenue and will facilitate new areas for local employment.