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Sebas Blasts Pm On Gaming Closure

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Sebas Bastian.

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

Island Luck’s principal last night accused the prime minister of “targeting” the domestic gaming industry and its 3,500 employees after he ordered the sector to close once more.

Sebas Bastian, in a messaged response to Tribune Business inquiries, questioned why the industry had been “singled out” and “assailed by this government yet again” after it was the only one barred from offering delivery and curb side pick-up services and ordered to shut its doors in the latest Emergency Powers (COVID-19) Order.

Arguing that there was “no logic or rationale” to support the government’s decision, Mr Bastian said the move was clearly not based on any health-related concerns given that other “so-called ‘vices’” such as liquor stores had been allowed to re-open to consumers.

Urging the government to publicly disclose the reasons for permitting certain industries and companies to re-open, while requiring others to remain closed, the Island Luck chief said ordering domestic gaming to close just one week after it re-opened threatened to worsen the very 30 percent unemployment rate that the prime minister himself voiced concerns about yesterday.

The prime minister, in his national address, said the permission granted for businesses to provide delivery and curb-side pick-up services were “designed to relate strictly to retail business establishments which can operate efficiently without the need for direct person-to-person physical contact or face to face interactions”.

He added: “They were never intended to apply to the operations of gaming houses, and this is now made abundantly clear by the provisions of Part B of the Order. Those provisions specifically state that permission to engage in home delivery and curbside pick-up services do not apply to ‘a gaming house operator’.”

This means that web shops at Island Luck will once again have to close after re-opening last week at multiple locations where they were able to offer both drive through and curb-side services for patrons wishing to purchase numbers or deposit monies to their accounts.

Dr Hubert Minnis gave no explanation for the move, or why domestic gaming operators are the only industry singled out as not fit to provide services in this manner. It is possible, though, that the Government is becoming concerned that jobless Bahamians will spend their unemployment benefits on numbers as opposed to groceries and other essentials in the hope of securing ‘a big win’.

Mr Bastian, meanwhile, was not the only person voicing outrage at the Government’s action. Wayne Munroe QC, who represents several web shops but not Island Luck, last night branded the Prime Minister’s actions as “despotic” and said his firm was already beginning to explore whether it could be challenged legally on behalf of his clients.

Revealing that he “would really like to see the medical advice that informed the decision that web shops cannot offer curb side service”, and is likely to request this from the Government, Mr Munroe blasted: “It’s despotic. This is the reason you generally don’t give one man power like this.

“The question is whether or not it can be successfully challenged. That is something my firm and I are beginning to look at this [last] evening. Here you have a proposition that we will single one business out to say you cannot do business. It cannot be on the basis you say it’s a ‘sin’ because liquor’s a ‘sin’. I cannot see a rational reason for it.”

Mr Munroe added that the Government’s decision also could not be grounded in health because liquor and alcohol-related products are more harmful to a person’s physical health, and the ability of their immune system to withstand COVID-19, than gaming.

“I cannot understand it at all other than just petty mindedness,” he said. “The fact he feels he can do that should cause the rest of us to be very afraid. He’s coming for the gaming houses now; who’s he coming for next? It’s Orwellian. I can’t understand why the Bahamian people are taking this so calmly.”

Mr Bastian, meanwhile, blasted: “The Prime Minister’s most recent singling out of the gaming industry in his national address seems like yet another attempt to target a sector that employs more than 3,500 Bahamians.

“Why the Government is intent on keeping the sector closed and these Bahamians out of work is unclear. What has become apparent is that there is no logic or rationale to support the Government’s ad-hoc decision-making.”

Pointing out that domestic gaming had also closed down because of the COVD-19 public health crisis, Mr Bastian said Island Luck had committed to paying staff salaries and covering the “shortfall” difference between employee incomes and National Insurance Board (NIB) benefits.

With workers receiving their full pay for sox weeks, he added that the company “accelerated existing plans for the implementation of new technologies” together with improved drive through, social distancing and sanitisation protocols to allow Island Luck to provide curb side services without patrons having to access its physical locations.

“If the Government’s core objective is to reduce the possibility of the spread of COVID-19, we have gone above and beyond to meet that objective,” Mr Bastian said. “In fact, Island Luck has one of the most efficient and well-organised curb side services in The Bahamas.

“Given the Prime Minister’s finger-wagging at the gaming industry despite these measures, it can only be assumed that reducing the spread of COVID-19 is not the Government’s core objective. And, with liquor stores and other ‘non-essential’ businesses open, we now know that the aim is not to limit so-called ‘vices’ or to restrict the operation of non-essential businesses.”

Questioning why there had been no dialogue with an industry that employs 3,500 as the unemployment rate heads towards 30 percent, Mr Bastian added: “Instead, there has been silence and the gaming industry has been assailed by this government yet again....

“To avoid further confusion, the Government should make clear its decision-making processes as it relates to business openings and take an inclusive approach to this by engaging industry stakeholders the same way that courtesy is extended to other industries. Regardless, it leaves a glaring question: Are these measures purposeful or personal.”

Tribune Business understands that the Gaming Board last week sought legal advice from the Attorney General’s Office over whether domestic gaming could re-open delivery and curb-side services and was told it could go ahead.

Comments

Hoda 3 months ago

Lol, Sebas wants to turn on the govt now. I dont have an issue with gambling houses be opening, but then again i dont feel the urge to play numbers or hold the belief that its a reliable source of income or whatever motivates persons.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 3 months ago

Gambling is a most serious addiction that has destroyed the lives of so many individuals and their families. And the web shop owners/operators are very much under-taxed in relation to the harm they cause to our society.

The greedy likes of Sebas Bastian and Craig Flowers would love nothing better than to experience a windfall of profits from all of the government assistance that's now being given to so many by way of direct NIB payments or emergency orders to private sector businesses to defer the receipt of payments they are entitled to eventually receive. Many who are benefiting from all of this assistance are gambling addicts and regular patrons of the web shops.

These gambling addicts who would rather play the numbers than buy food and medicine for themselves and their family members. Minnis should have long ago repealed all of the legislation was wrongfully put in place to 'legalize' the webshops against the wishes of the Bahamian people as expressed in a duly held national referendum before the wrongful 'legalizing' legislation was enacted.

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pileit 3 months ago

there should be an issue with the gambling houses open at this time, and Bastian is well aware. In an ordinary, healthy economy, sure, every adult has the right to do what they will with their money, if they want to fritter it away against near impossible odds of a jackpot, fine. But in a severely contracted economy, with no easy, quick way out, what impact do you think gambling houses will have on an undisciplined society with essentially nonexistant savings?? Do you think the "3000 gaming employees" is a plus? Thats a small writeoff for him vs the PROFITS he will rake in straight from the wallets of the poor & ignorant, thats where the real damage lies.

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tetelestai 3 months ago

What is the difference between a gambling house and liquor stores?

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moncurcool 3 months ago

Liquor stores should still be closed as well, in my estimation. But too many of the so called pastors probably mixed up in them, that is why they only complained about the web stores and not the liquor one, and that is why the PM probably recapitulated on web shops.

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joeblow 3 months ago

@telestai ...liquor stores sell a tangible product ( I can hold a bottle of Cabernet in my hand and drink it or use it to cook), unlike a gambling house that sells false hope, preys on the lazy and financially undisciplined while undermining the work ethic!!

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tetelestai 3 months ago

That is barking nonsense! So, if I sell marijuana or cocaine- a tanglble product- then I should be open. Stop it.

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joeblow 3 months ago

… fallacious argument-- both of those items are illegal!

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tetelestai 3 months ago

And numbers is NOT illegal, my friend. So as a legal enterprise that can provide curb side service there is nothing to keep them from opening, except your hypocritical indignation. Legally they will win this argument 10 times oit of 10. I care nothing for your abused 'Christian principles'.

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tetelestai 3 months ago

You do realize that you just described the stock market right? Lazy people, depending on the efforts of others and betting on said efforts (stocks or bonds) to get money they havent earned. Absoute hogwash, joeblow..bullshit!

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joeblow 3 months ago

… nonsense. One is investing (which is an educated risk) in the potential of a company by allowing it to receive capital to produce a good or service when purchasing stocks, making the investor a part owner of that company! The investor owns something legal, tangible and transferable with benefits (dividends) or losses depending on the performance of the company. The risk of stocks etc is not akin to betting on numbers, which are a different matter because the house always wins. Numbers sellers don't go out of business as companies may!

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tetelestai 3 months ago

You can talk semantics all you want. When you put mone in a stock you have no earthly idea if the stick will grow in value. Now, if you claim some prescient ability to predict rhe stock market, then my friend you should not be wasting time on Tribune message boards. You should be jet setting the world holding yourself out to the highest bidder.
When you so call 'invest' , you are gambling that a stock will appreciate, through the work done by others (passive investing). You are every bit the scoundrel.and as lazy as number players. Dont fall to the white man trying to convince you that putting lipstick on the stockmarket (pig) makes it different from numbers.

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joeblow 3 months ago

... so using that logic taking the risk of starting or investing in a business is equivalent to buying numbers? I don't agree, there are different kinds of risk. Additionally, I don't know if anyone can get addicted to buying stocks and bonds to the detriment of their families!

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tetelestai 3 months ago

Perhaps you may not have heard of the following, all of whom perpetrated frauds as a result of the love of money - which is what gsmbling is: World Com, Madoff, Satayim, Rajanatnam, Charles Ponzi, Jordan Belfort, and on and on... My assertion remains, the stock market is 'numbers' on steroids. And, dont twist the argument, we were comparing numbers to the stock market. Starting a business was not in the discussion.

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joeblow 3 months ago

… naturally I am aware of the former which is part of a much larger discussion, but concerning your last point, when one buys stock either through an IPO for a new company or otherwise they are investing money in starting or growing a business! Sure wish I could have bought 10,000 shares of Amazon 20 years ago!

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Well_mudda_take_sic 3 months ago

The numbers bosses and their gaming web shops do not pay anywhere near the taxes they should be paying having regard to the harm and misery they cause our society as a whole. Liquor, cigarettes, cigars, etc. are very heavily taxed, and rightfully so.

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sheeprunner12 3 months ago

No difference ………. close ALL down. This is NO time to fritter away precious savings with gambling or rum. ….. PM should just say it.

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tetelestai 3 months ago

So, the PM should tell me how I should spend my hard earned money? While you are at it, can you tell me which places "are meet and right" and pass your sanctimonius standards?

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themessenger 3 months ago

So, kiss my ass and walk fast Monroe looking to present a legal challenge on behalf of the numbers boys aye? I hope he gives them better advise than what he gave that fat junglelist he was coaching to run down Breezes rooms and service paid for by we govmint for the Covid exiles.

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joeblow 3 months ago

Quite frankly I am trying to wonder how barbers and others who work on a volume basis are surviving. I feel no sorrow for Sebas and those legal criminals of his ilk!

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Porcupine 3 months ago

In the same way John Rolle has limited money flowing out of the country, which is not a health issue, so too should we look at our more domestic outflows. The jobs provided by the web shops have always been at the expense of creating real jobs actually producing something that brings real value to The Bahamas. It is time for a reset and time to tell the web shop owners to take a hike. They do not care about The Bahamas and Bahamians. They care about their own pocketbook. Nothing more.

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sheeprunner12 3 months ago

Agree ………. 1000% ……….. Shut them down!!!!!!!!!!!

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