By SANCHESKA BROWN
Tribune Staff Reporter
ROBERT “Sandy” Sands, senior vice-president of external and governmental affairs at Baha Mar, said yesterday Bahamians are not “disciplined” enough to be able to gamble in casinos locally.
Mr Sands’ comments came after Prime Minister Perry Christie said that permitting Bahamians to gamble in local casinos will not be considered in the referendum on a national lottery.
Mr Sands said while he supports regularising number houses, he is not an advocate of Bahamians being allowed to gamble in casinos.
“I am a strong advocate of limited relaxation for Bahamians gambling in casinos. I believe the government should examine the opportunity for high net worth for persons who can verify their ability to sustain gambling for limited periods like over a month or something like that.
“I support gambling for persons who come on short term work permits, especially in the entertainment business. I also support gambling for persons of high net worth who have permanent residency in the country and people with second homes,” he said.
“However, I do not support opening the floodgates totally. We are not a disciplined enough community. I understand rights, but there are some rights we have to take away from individuals for their own benefit. We have to find the balance and even with the liberalization of the number houses there might be an opportunity where numbers may be able to be purchased through a window at the casino. But no I do not support Bahamians gambling in the casino.”
As it stands gambling is illegal in all forms for Bahamians and non-citizen residents of the Bahamas. However, Prime Minister Christie has promised a referendum on the legalisation of gambling and a national lottery before the year is out. He said a referendum is necessary to remove the “contradictions” that have led to gambling continuing to be illegal, yet widely practised and accepted.
Mr Christie said: “It is something that I think is very necessary to remove these enormous contradictions that exist in our country where every single Bahamian is walking around knowing that they (illegal web-shops) exist. We cannot have this system... where people are paying national insurance payments, making other institutional payments and then otherwise pretending that this activity is lawful. That cannot go on any further.”
He said he is working in the Ministry of Finance on scheduling a time for the referendum. He also said the former government “has done a lot of work on that” to the point where the former government created draft legislation.
It has been estimated that a national lottery could pump more than $190 million into the Bahamas’ economy annually.
Currently there are at least 16 independent numbers houses in New Providence alone, with another six in Grand Bahama and a few spread throughout the Family Islands.
The Bahamas Christian Council (BCC) has gone on record opposing the legalization of gambling in any form in the Bahamas.