By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE highly anticipated referendum on the legalisation of gambling will take the backseat to a potential North Abaco bye-election.
As the government continues to plan for the contentious vote, Prime Minister Perry Christie said the resignation of Hubert Ingraham will take priority.
“If Mr Ingraham resigns it means that a seat is vacant and that at some point there will be a bye-election,” Mr Christie said.
“That takes priority over any referendum that I would hold, so in terms of the calendar of events for the government we have to see how that calendar of events will be influenced by the declared intention to resign by Mr Hubert Ingraham.
“(The referendum) it’s on the table and it’s on the table for this year,” he added.
Meanwhile, several religious groups – including the Bahamas Christian Council– reaffirmed their stance against gambling and any attempts to legalize the activity.
In public statements last month, council president Ranford Patterson maintained that the social consequences outweigh potential revenue for the government.
In anticipation of the public vote, several number house owners have banded together to launch an educational campaign. Comprised of FML Group of Companies, Asue Draw, Island Game and Island Luck, the campaign will focus on community development initiatives.
With reports of at least 16 independent number houses in New Providence alone, another six in Grand Bahama and a few spread throughout the Family Islands, it has been estimated that a national lottery could pump more than $190 million into the Bahamas’ economy annually.
Dicrius Ramsey, general Manager of Island Luck, told The Tribune in a previous interview that number houses employ up to 3,000 Bahamians directly with an annual payroll of more the $6 million per annum.
Making his case for legalising local gambling or playing numbers, Mr Ramsey said number houses also indirectly employ 2,000 Bahamians and have injected as much as $100,000 per month into community organisations.
As it stands gambling is illegal in all forms for Bahamians and non-citizen residents of the Bahamas.