By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE government still plans to bring the Gaming Bill before parliament this year despite not yet having a date on the legislative calender, Minister of National Security Dr Bernard Nottage confirmed yesterday.
Dr Nottage said: “We don’t have a date when it will come to parliament, but it will definitely be this year.”
Last year, Tourism Minister Obie Wilchcombe said he was hopeful that the Government would get the Gaming Bill on its legislative calendar for January, telling Tribune Business: “We have to get it done.”
The Gaming Bill 2013 was tabled in the House of Assembly in October.
The bill, and associated regulations, will allow Bahamas-based casinos – Atlantis and Baha Mar, in addition to those at the Grand Lucayan and Bimini Bay resorts – to offer on-property sports betting, in-play wagering, proxy wagering and online gaming by cell phones and computers. There will also be incentives for “junket” group visits.
The bill attracted much attention when it was revealed that legislation would permit permanent residents and work permit holders to gamble in casinos while upholding prohibitive clauses for Bahamians.
At that time, Prime Minister Perry Christie said he was fully aware of the issues over the discrimination clause and confirmed that his party had not reached a consensus on the Bill or the direction that it should ultimately take.
In subsequent interviews, both Mr Christie and Mr Wilchcombe, who has responsibility for gaming, have maintained the government has no intention of “tweaking” the gaming bill, despite the public stance against the discriminatory legislation taken by several PLP politicians.
Three PLP MPs, including Gaming Board Chairman Dr Andre Rollins, came out publicly against the legislation on the grounds that it discriminates against Bahamians.
Following public statements by Fort Charlotte MP Dr Rollins that he would not support the Bill in its current form, Bamboo Town MP Renward Wells, and Mount Moriah MP Arnold Forbes have also expressed a desire for the Bill to be “tweaked.”