BAHAMIANS need to know exactly what happens in web shops if they are to make informed decisions in the upcoming referendum on gambling.
That’s the verdict of Catholic Archbishop Patrick Pinder, who says it is vital to know where the law now stands when it comes to web shops.
In his pastoral reflection ‘Illegal Gambling in The Bahamas’, he aims to further the national conversation on decriminalising the numbers business for Bahamian operators of gaming business and their patrons, and to present a reflection on the need to bring about a more beneficial relationship between the Church and the culture.
He says that to craft worthwhile responses to national challenges, the country must begin with an honest assessment of where it is.
To that end, the rules on web shops must be cleared up, he says.
He said: “How many Bahamians frequent these establishments to play games of chance? Who are they? How much do they spend per day, per week, per year? Is it disposable income, or does the spending contribute to domestic challenges in terms of stressing family relations or finances?
“Is it, or is it not, time to change the law in order to effectively regulate a behaviour which is illegal, lawless, long-standing and unregulated?
“This activity continues boldly and publicly without apparent regard and respect for or fear of the current law?
“What would be the nature of the proposed law intended to regulate the illegal lottery. Surely we deserve to be assured by public authority that the law will be enforced regardless of the outcome of the referendum,” he said.
Emphasising that games of chance, in themselves, do not constitute an evil, Archbishop Pinder said that the Catechism goes on to make it abundantly clear that games of chance however “can lead to evil.”
The Catechism, he said, also explains that such activities become morally unacceptable when they deprive someone of what is necessary to provide for his needs or for those of others.
A passion for gambling, therefore risks “becoming an enslavement.”
“The truth of the latter statement is clear when many Bahamians spend days sitting before computers in web shops, at work or at home for the slim chance of winning a fortune that will help them to rise above their troubles. That many of those who wager on games of chance are often single, unemployed mothers gives rise to further concern. Such activities are wrong for both women and men, if they play numbers to the neglect of their homes and families, their jobs, their personal and civic responsibilities. This is the real problem,” he said.
The Archbishop said that no matter how small someone’s income is, it is far better to “save regularly than to gamble regularly.”
“Gambling in excess has a great potential for generating intemperate behaviour and for many, addictions. It is from intemperance and addiction that many societal ills arise. Therein lies the real danger of permitting gaming that is an unregulated, free-for-all. It is our duty to take whatever measures lie in our power to help Bahamians avoid the potential and dangerous pitfalls of gaming or any activity that could lead to harm for the individual or society.”
Bahamians must be armed with the facts, said the Archbishop.
This, in his estimation, is the most productive course of action otherwise a referendum becomes an “empty exercise.”
“Armed with statistics, our decisions or commitments regarding gambling become more defensible. This is the kind of democratic action that accords well with a Christian perspective. After all, faith is the friend of reason,” he said.