By Inigo ‘Naughty’ Zenicazelaya
We’re barely a week into the New Year and already I’m shaking my head at the actions of some Bahamians. But have no fear, fellow countrymen, because according to social media, blessings ‘loom’.
More money, more problems
By now, anyone who spends at least five minutes on Facebook has heard of the phenomenon overtaking this little nation: looming.
For the uninitiated, ‘looming’ or ‘to loom’ is the latest get rich quick scam that has hundreds of Bahamians sending thousands of dollars into the ether in hopes of ridiculous financial returns. A typical post reads like this: ‘Wanna turn $100 into $800? Join my loom, inbox me now!’
Now, who - you may ask - would be dumb enough to send their hard-earned money to strangers based on a social media post? Who, in their ‘right mind’, can’t see that ‘looming’ is no different than a pyramid scheme or perhaps even a Ponzi scheme?
My answer? Plenty people, apparently.
It took me a solid three minutes of Google research to learn that the most popular type of this scheme is something called the ‘Blessing Loom’.
My first thought on ‘Blessing Loom’ is that there is obviously an ‘s’ missing from the word ‘Blessing’. Unless, of course, the one blessing is all you get. My second thought was that con artists are notoriously poor grammarists ...
But I digress.
I’m not going to bore you with the details of how the pyramid works because I assume mostly smart people read this column and I also assume smart people could never fall for a such an obvious scam. Yet, when I scroll down my Facebook timeline I realise that close to one in five posts is something to do with this ‘looming’.
Admittedly, gambling has become a pervasive part of life in this country.
Just before the Christmas holiday, we witnessed an historic downgrade to ‘junk bond’ status but our government is ‘betting on’ Baha Mar to save the day. Because that worked so well in the past.
A few days ago, a prominent Democratic National Alliance politician was caught up in a scandal for allegedly gambling at the Atlantis but showed no remorse because ‘das his rights’. Rest assured he is not the first, nor last, Bahamian to test their luck at the tables only to be escorted off the property by security. And with the current gambling laws, I suspect, many feel they too should be able to yell ‘Hit me!’ at the blackjack tables or roll the dice at craps.
In 2013, Bahamians took to the (literal and opinion) polls and rejected all forms of gambling for Bahamians. Whether that was the consensus or just the will of those with a horse in the race is unknown. What is known, however, is that the Christie administration went against the results of the referendum and legitimised web shop gambling anyway. Now, just like ‘numbers houses’, it’s everywhere, and (as my Grammy used to say), the chickens have come home to roost.
Loom and gloom
One of the more fascinating aspects of the ‘loom’ phenomena is how the web shops have been brought into the mess. A few days ago there was a press release purportedly from the famous Island Luck franchise that warned its customers that looming was not permitted. Some Island Luck account holders, allegedly, were using those accounts to move money around for the scheme.
Now, on the face of it, I can see why a business promising you ‘luck’ in turning $1 into $700 would have a problem with any scheme offering to ‘bless’ you with $800. According to reports, upwards of 100 Island Luck account holders have seen their accounts frozen pending investigations. Which has not gone over well with their fast-money chasing customers. Who have threatened to ‘riot.’
There is so much dirt flying in this pot versus kettle matchup that I am left scratching my head.
What is apparent, however, is that once again the Christie administration needs to step in and clean up a mess it is partly responsible for.
Where is the Gaming Board in all this madness? Do we have the necessary laws on the books to battle these looming blessings? Will we enforce them? How come any of this could happen using ‘numbers accounts’ in the first place? What is the Central Bank saying? Do we have a black market banking problem? In essence, ‘where our money gern?’
A lot of Bahamians who voted against gambling likely think now is a good time to say ‘I told ya so!’ when they look at how many Bahamians are enthralled with it. But now is not the time. Right now, with continued low GDP growth and a high GDP-to-debt ratio we seem to be standing on the edge of a fiscal cliff. If there are any real blessings looming, now would be a good time for them to show up. And not on social media.
Ponzi schemes might appear lucrative to the first few suckers through the door but no one wants to be around when that pyramid collapses. It’s time for the proper regulatory departments to step in and step up. Just one look at the amount of young people fascinated with gambling in one form or the other and you know just how much of this country’s future is at stake.
• Inigo ‘Naughty’ Zenicazelaya is the resident stand-up comic at Jokers Wild Comedy Club at the Atlantis, Paradise Island, resort and presents ‘Mischief and Mayhem in da AM’ from 6am to 10am, Monday to Friday, and ‘The Press Box’ sports talk show on Sunday from 10am to 1pm on KISS FM 96.1. He also writes a sports column in The Tribune on Tuesday. Comments and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org