By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
Long Island’s MP yesterday backed concerns that web shops were having a negative economic impact on her constituents, becoming “the only game in town” as other business “pillars” closed.
Loretta Butler-Turner, the newly-appointed Opposition leader in the House of Assembly, told Tribune Business there were “very few settlements” in her constituency where web shops were absent.
Backing the concerns raised at the Long Island Business Outlook conference by former Chamber of Commerce head, Mario Cartwright, Mrs Butler-Turner said persons struggling financially were “easily tempted” to gamble in the hope of scoring a big win.
“We share the same sentiments,” Mrs Butler-Turner said of Mr Cartwright. ‘It’s very difficult. I’m telling you that there are very few settlements where they are not located.
“There’s a proliferation of web shops. It seems to be, no pun intended, the only game in town. I’ve seen other businesses that were the pillars of certain communities struggle and literally close down.”
Mr Cartwright had earlier this week slammed web shops as a “scourge” that is “drying up” Long Island’s economy, with residents prioritising gambling above everything else.
“By 2012 they were in full swing. These gambling houses eventually carved out a major portion of the local economy for themselves,” he added.
“It is unfortunate that many Long Islanders are avid gamblers. Playing numbers transcends everything in their lives. Money for gambling is set aside first before consideration is given for groceries, clothing and other vital household needs; it’s a pity.”
Mr Cartwright said: “Every month, tens of thousands of dollars leave Long Island via human couriers who carry the money to the numbers house bosses in Nassau.
“This money never comes back. This gambling scourge has caused a severe decay in the moral fibre of the Long Island community. Parents are setting a very poor example for their children. Legitimate businesses are suffering because the numbers houses are drying up Long Island’s economy one spin at a time.”
Asked whether the Government’s promised enforcement of zoning regulations would help curb the spread of web shops on Long Island, Mrs Butler-Turner said it was unlikely to work in New Providence, let along Long Island.
“Before we ever get to Long Island, which the Government barely ever considers, if they were to enforce the regulations in New Providence the majority of them [web shops] would be closed down,” she told Tribune Business.
“They’re supposed to be a certain distance from schools and churches. Take a drive down Wulff Road and Robinson Road. It seems like web shops are on every corner, and schools and churches are everywhere.”
Mrs Butler-Turner said it was “just as bad on Long Island” because the communities in her constituency were smaller.
“People struggling economically, they’re easily tempted to believe that by putting a few dollars on a number, or whatever it is they do, so that they may hit the jackpot.
“There’s this desire to win big, and people are going hungry and having challenges paying their bills. It’s really absurd, something like that in small Family Island communities.”
Mrs Butler-Turner added that it was hard for many Bahamians to avoid web shop gaming, and added: “You have to not be a gamer. If you’re a gamer, it’s your game. It’s sad.”