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The Destructive Face Of Casino Gambling

AS A follow up to our comments in this column yesterday a Tribune reader has sent us an interesting article from London’s Daily Mail on the Englishman’s destructive addiction to the roulette machine and Labour’s admission that it made a mistake by relaxing gambling laws thus allowing casinos to flourish.

All the observations in the Daily Mail article are among the reasons that we made it clear in this column yesterday that our comments about the ever present “numbers racket” to the growing presence of web shops did not include the more sophisticated casino tables of the hotels.

However, with the number houses becoming over the years almost a part of the island culture, it is going to be impossible to shut them down. It must be particularly hard for the PLP to even consider closure, considering that their party’s treasurer Percy Munnings was the acknowledged numbers boss and with his gains a generous financial supporter of his party for many years.

If Percy Munnings could get away with it, reasoned the little numbers man, then why couldn't he? It was a reasonable proposition. Despite the police raids, the back room numbers trade became bolder and more entrenched.

This is why we accept that it has been allowed to become so much a part of the fabric of the Bahamas that government might as well capitulate, legalise it, tax it, and strictly control it so that it is not allowed to grow into an octopus of destruction.

However, allowing Bahamians into the hotel casinos is another matter and we agree with Robert “Sandy” Sands, senior vice-president of external and government affairs of BahaMar, that Bahamians are not “disciplined” enough to be able to gamble locally. Not only are Bahamians not disciplined enough, but neither are Britons — in fact few members of the human race, unless they have entrenched religious convictions, and strong wills, can easily escape the temptation of easy money.

Mr Sands’ comments came after Prime Minister Perry Christie, while promising a referendum before the end of the year to legalise gambling and create a national lottery, vetoed the referendum being extended to open casino gambling in the hotels to the local population.

According to the Daily Mail article, written by Sarah Bridge and Abul Taher, the extent of “Britain’s addiction to controversial casino-style gambling machines” was revealed with the disclosure “by two bookmaker giants that more than £12 billion was wagered on their machines in the first half of this year.”

The figures revealed by the “bookies” was staggering.

But the most interesting part of the article was the admission by Shadow Culture Secretary Harriet Harman, who was a senior member of the Cabinets of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, that her government had made a tragic mistake.

“I think we were wrong,” the Mail quoted her as saying:

“We have made a mistake and we need to do something about it.

“If we had known then what we know now, we wouldn’t have allowed this.

“It’s not just ruining the high street, it’s ruining people’s lives.”

The Mail reports that this is the first time that Ms Harman, who is in charge of Labour’s gambling policy, has explicitly blamed the Labour government for the increase in gambling.

Ms Harman spoke out after hearing stories from people hooked on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOTNs) that encourage people to stake £100 at a time on roulette, blackjack or poker games hoping to win £500.

“I have received the most heart-rending letters and e-mails and calls that I’ve ever had in 30 years of being an MP,” she said, “just saying, “Please, do something about this. It’s ruined my life, it’s ruined my family, it’s really dangerous.”

“And the problem is, it’s getting worse,” she said, “that is why we need the law changed so that something can be done about it.”

Ms Harman told the Mail that FOTBs were “bringing casinos right into the high street.”

“These machines,” she said, “are like mini-casinos— they’re not like the small machines you have in seaside arcades. People get addicted and lose all their money.”

This is a matter that has to be studied carefully. If it is decided to allow the betting shops that we now have, they have to be strictly controlled so that they do not grow into a greater menace than they are now.

Government now has to decided whether to close down all local gambling, or strictly control and tax the numbers and web shops. But the ridiculous situation of turning a blind eye to open and defiant illegality can no longer continue.

Comments

TalRussell 8 years, 7 months ago

Tribune you were wrong yesterday and so it is today...wrong.

Enforcing the "criminal" law against the operators of the illegal numbers web-shops is as easy as revoking their business license with a hefty fine and as simple as "going after their cash, assets...including houses, cars, boats, land, jewelery, bank accounts, etc.

This is exactly what they did when they recently seized $1 million in hard cash from a web shop operator?

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by TalRussell

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guyfawkes 8 years, 6 months ago

Tal, as usual your desire to always be at odds with the Tribune (to which you seem to like to be it's biggest contributor) is clouding your judgement. The Numbers business could have been contained probably years ago, when they were really underground business that operated out of various businesses and only a handful of regulars knew what really went on in these establishments. Today however, we have a number shop in practically every neighborhood, with big bright lights and slogans like "Everybody wins" and "Get more with Asue draw". To make this situation even harder to deal with, our laws conceived in an era when our leaders were closed minded and control was the order of the day; have not kept up with the times. Gambling in the number houses will be hard to stop, even if the government closes one shop the business will only go back to the days when they hid in the shadows of legitmate businesses and corruption was the order of the day.

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bigdee 8 years, 6 months ago

we really do not need gambleing here the numbers and the spining ban it it huerting to many familes

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WoodesRodgers 8 years, 5 months ago

Firstly, numbers can be stopped if the Gov't really wanted to. The backbone of all number houses is the internet. Just as countries can block Facebook and Twitter, we can block the website of all current and any new number houses. It's a very easy thing to do. If number houses should revert back to the old way of selling numbers via paper receipts, then they should be very easy to catch and prosecute.

Secondly, number houses have evolved into casinos. People go in there and put money on their accounts and gamble on the computers. You can gamble on just about every game imaginable...checkers, bingo, poker, blackjack, slots, sports, etc... It's all right there to play for money on the internet so the question about legalizing casinos seems crazy to me because when we legalize numbers, by extension, we will be legalizing casino gambling as well. Don't you see parked cars in front of number houses all day...people are not there for hours buying Cash 3 or Play 4...they are gambling on the computer!!!

In my opinion, if we are going to legalize numbers then we should also legalize casino gambling. We already have a reliable system in place for casinos so it will be nothing new for us to do except change the law and maybe tax the casinos a little more. The casinos will be more profitable which will allow them to hire more people, who in turn contribute to the growth of the economy. It will be much easier than implementing a totally new system that has to be created and enforced. Besides, the odds of winning are better in a casino than they are on a computer...do some research into online casino.

Lastly, it is with regret that we have come to this point in our country. This could have all been prevented if we nipped this, in the proverbial bud, when it first started but like so many other things we have let it grown out of control. Gambling is a very serious addiction that I have personally seen ruin many families right here in the Bahamas. In my experience as a former numbers salesperson, women especially are susceptible to this unnecessary evil. Unfortunately we cannot go back in time, so to me the sensible thing to do is to have a Gov't ran numbers/lottery system like in Florida. We could hire an experienced company a management fee that will be based on percentage of the profits. I hope we all enact a law that the profits from gambling/numbers can only be used in the education system. Casino gambling should be legal for all above the age of 21 and we should tax casinos on a percentage of revenue as well. If we as a country decide to legalize gambling/numbers then it should for the benefit of all, not just the owners of a few number houses!!!

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