By Khrisna Virgil
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE Christie administration last night announced that the referendum to legalise web shop gaming in the Bahamas will be postponed to January 28, 2013.
And despite consultative advice that a national lottery would not be sustainable in the economy, Mr Christie said a question relating to that form of gaming would also be included when voters head to the polls on the new date.
These changes, he added, came with a primary realisation that the electorate lacked a good knowledge of what a majority “no” or “yes” vote could mean for the country. In addition, he said further consultations needed to be completed and important amendments to the Gaming Act passed in the House of Assembly.
Mr Christie said the government would, today, present those changes as to form the legal framework on web shop gaming. The question of Bahamians being allowed in casinos is still not up for consideration, he said.
“I am a Prime Minister who listens,” Mr Christie said, “and in listening to the still evolving public discourse on the forthcoming referendum it has become clear to me that more time is needed before the Bahamian people are called upon to vote.
“Notwithstanding that initial advise, the government has decided that it would be in the interest of the broadening of democracy and consistent with its charter for governance to include a national lottery in the referendum question.
In the lead up to the referendum, Mr Christie cautioned the public to ensure that they are well versed on the pros and cons of web shop gaming. He said during that time, the government would take a more active role in educating the electorate.
As promised, the government’s hired consultant was in attendance.
James Kidgell, a partner in the Dickson-Wilson Chartered Accountant firm based in the United Kingdom said his firm took several factors into consideration during the consultation process.
He said: “We took into consideration the population of the Bahamas. And just for comparison and on some up to date figures, if we assume that the population of the Bahamas is 350,000 people Trinidad and Tobago run a national lottery and their population is somewhere in the neighbourhood of $1.2 million people and up to date jack pots in Trinidad and Tobago are about 2.3 million dollars.
“On simple assessment of where Bahamians are likely to spend their gaming dollars on lottery, human greed takes you to wanting to win big and with the ease of access geographically and the way lottery tickets are sold in the Bahamas then it becomes difficult to just see how a Bahamian lottery may be as successful as one may wish.
“A Bahamian lottery would need investment in one form or another, whether it be the government contracting with commercial enterprises or a commercial enterprise operating a lottery itself.”
Based on the figures, and information gathered, Mr Kidgell said his team found it difficult to see how a commercial enterprise would see the returns they’d expect to get from participating in a national lottery.