By KHRISNA VIRGIL
Tribune Staff Reporter
TOURISM Minister Obie Wilchcombe yesterday accused the Free National Movement of flip-flopping on their position to legalise web shop gaming.
During the FNM’s 2007 term in office, Mr Wilchcombe told parliamentarians that former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham affirmed that he had the overwhelming support of his party’s council and MP’s if his
administration were to proceed with a referendum.
This revelation is indeed a stark contrast from what the party, who currently has three former cabinet ministers sitting in the House, now believes. The FNM has to date urged Bahamians to vote “no” in the January 28, 2013 referendum. They believe that the government has up to this point rushed the procedure and is still not allowing Bahamians enough time to engage in an informed vote despite postponing the referendum from December 3, 2012.
He made the remarks in the House of Assembly during debates on the Constitutional Referendum Amendment Bill which seeks to allow Bahamians to vote on the controversial gaming issue.
“That’s the FNM,” Mr Wilchcombe said. “One minute it’s this way, the next minute the other way that’s the difficulty, because you have to have a position.
“Mr Speaker we tend not to remember the history. When the former Prime Minister, who just left office six months ago stood up and said legal gambling is being considered. This is February 15, 2008.
“To support what I am saying Mr Speaker, this is May 2010. ‘The Prime Minister says, FNMs favour legalised gambling.’ I didn’t see one FNM Member of Parliament, one FNM Minister of the government saying Ingraham was not speaking the truth.”
Mr Wilchcombe went on to present numerous archived stories written by The Tribune which said that in 2010 Mr Ingraham told parliamentarians that legal web shop gaming would financially benefit the government.
Later on, he said, the Ingraham administration announced that they would drop plans to pursue the referendum, but would implement other taxes to generate revenue. An income of $30 to $40 million was expected.
Former FNM Chairman Carl Bethel was also vocal in his administration’s pro web shop gaming position, Mr Wilchcombe said.
Mr Bethel in December 2011 said a regulation to the gaming industry was a great possibility.
The FNM’s questioning of the capabilities of the UK consultants hired to advise the government again surfaced when Opposition Leader Dr Hubert Minnis asked who on the Dickson-Wilson team specialised in gaming policies. Dr Minnis further noted that John Godfrey, who was the specialist that advised the government over a 30-year span, no longer worked with that firm. He said Dickson-Wilson is only well versed in audit and accounting.
However, Mr Wilchcombe said that Godfrey was very much still a gaming consultant.
“I have just been handed some information and maybe the Leader of the Opposition would wish to note this, that John Godfrey is a consultant with Dickson-Wilson and he also advises the government of Singapore which is the leader in the world.”
He said Godfrey had been to the Bahamas to advise the FNM.
“Just thought you’d like to know. See just ask us the question and we’ll answer your question. He advises Singapore,” Mr Wilchcombe said.