EDIOR, The Tribune.
I have always supported and still do the so-called gambling, wagering or numbers industry. In fact, the first media personality to advocate for the legalisation and regulation of the same. During the assorted opinion polls, I stood tall and proud to support the “yes” vote. A number, pardon the pun, of individuals and corporate entities supported the same, inclusive of myself and several prominent clerics, et al.
The Christie-led administration took the bull by the horns and the rest is history. Gaming or wagering, by whatever name you wish to call it, is now permitted by law. I must confess, at the outset, that I was a paid consultant to the industry and even had an extensive meeting with the lead players in the industry. At least once every two weeks, the consultancy stipend was paid from an accounting office complex on West Bay Street/ Cable Beach. Much more was “promised” during the campaign, based on the “successful” outcome.
Suffice it to say, that end of the bargain has yet to happen. I guess that it is the luck of the draw. Maybe litigation may have to be commenced to resolve this impasse? That, however, would be the menu for another day. In the meantime, however, the “licenced” operators, according to public statistics, are making tens of millions of dollars, annually. No one, least of all me, begrudge them this but two questions must be asked and answered.
The first one is: “Is it right to allow a monopoly in what has now become a national pastime and economic pursuit? Precisely how much net revenue goes into the pockets of a handful of Bahamians? The major players have expanded rapidly in the black belt and other areas of New Providence; Grand Bahama and the rest of the Family Islands. Some of them flaunt their perceived wealth and financial influence over all and sundry, especially, some say, the clergy and politicians. Some see them as “heroes” but, after careful consideration, I see them for what they really are: Robin Hood in reverse, if this were possible.
This monopoly flies in the face of common sense and the declared policy position of the Prime Minister to broaden the economic field, with bigger slices, to accommodate more of the average Bahamian. It is dead wrong to allow this monopoly to continue... it must come to a negotiated or court sanctioned end as soon as possible. A National Lottery and a 55% ownership of all current web licences by the administration in perpetuity for, and on the direct behalf of the people of this wonderful nation, is the way forward.
Some are talking shaving cream about the ting 5% tax on individual gaming or wagering or whatever you all wish to call it, while the operators, God bless all of them, even more, but this inequality in wealth and the arrogance of all of them, pales in the face of what needs to be done by the good doctor and his surgical crew.
Bet Vegas, a reputable and on-time paying web operator, in my personal knowledge, has a pending legal matter before the courts so we need not address that. An injunction is also in place which prohibits the Gaming Board; the minister with responsibility and/or the police from interfering with that entity’s operations unless and until a contrary order is issued, at the end of the legal saga.
I hold no brief for any gaming operators and I am deeply concerned with the naked and rapid expansion, in the inner city areas of New Providence and throughout our Family of Islands and more millions being sucked out of the economy straight into the pockets of the “chosen” operators. Wrong!
Yes, the web operators are contributing back to the wider society but what are the economic and societal impacts, long term? Single mothers and individuals who might have a job on minimum wage, may well take a “chance”, excessively in some cases, hoping to win big? This then becomes akin to the proverbial dog chasing his tail.. no end in sight.
The second question is: What funds have been set aside and actually spent on a rehabilitation/ restorative facility, concrete on the ground, to treat gambling or wagering addicts? When will the operators disclose these plans and put their fabled fortune where their collective lips and noses are? The PM and the minister responsible needs to revisit the whole question of unlimited expansion of wagering and gaming outlets. The societal and eventual economic costs are simply too high.
I submit that it is pure greed that might be motivating the so-called major players. Bet Vegas is operating legitimately and they simply see those black boys are threats to their hogging up the whole gaming pie. I congratulate that esteemed pastor and real man of God, Cedric Moss, for his recent editorials and public stance on the sins of gaming addiction. We differ, slightly, but the good cleric, is right on.
Gaming should not be the expectation of individuals to earn a living.
In conclusion, beloved, remember that you are playing your “numbers” every day of your life and still live in the ghetto while the numbers people live in gated mansions? Something is wrong with this. The Bet Vegas people, however, to my knowledge, have remained in their original spheres of influence while contributing back, daily, to the varied communities. Yet, the big boys/girls say: Shut the ---- Down? The Devil is a liar. To God then, in all things, be the glory.
ORTLAND H. BODIE, Jr.
August 23, 2018.