EDITOR, The Tribune.
The Gaming Industry and our economic recovery. This is my second article in a series of articles that I am writing with ideas that in my opinion would boost the Bahamian economy.
Web Shop gambling is a legal operation in our country. The owners must be congratulated for their efforts in making it a thriving multi-million dollar industry, that employs scores of Bahamians. The owners are all now wealthy Bahamians, living in luxury and enjoying the fruits of their labour and investment. It would have been great for the people of The Bahamas if our government had instead decided to operate this lucrative business for the people. The millions would have been made for the people and the country.
When our government was considering legalising the web shops, I wrote a letter to the late Minister Dr BJ Nottage advising that our government take over and operate the web shops and a weekly lottery. In the letter I gave details of Dr Eric Williams’ takeover of the gaming operations in Trinidad and Tobago.
Williams’ party, the PNM, came to power in 1962. He became Prime Minister. At the time the numbers racket was illegal for decades. The Trinis called it “Weh Weh”. Police raids and prosecutions could not eradicate it. Williams knew that the operators were financially successful, but illicitly controlled the draw and the winning number.
The same applied to us here where certain number houses would not place the high selling numbers in the bag for the draw. The Williams government appointed the Trinidad & Tobago Gaming Corporation. The corporation operates and controls gaming in Trinidad & Tobago. The corporation operates the numbers racket, called “play web.” There are no web shops, the numbers are sold in qualified retail establishments, who earn a percentage of the sales. The weekly lottery is sold by street vendors, who purchase the books of tickets at a wholesale price.
Tickets are available in food stores, drug stores and other retail establishments.
Horse Racing is also controlled as the race tracks are owned by the government. The races are held by racing clubs that lease the tracks. They pay the government a rental fee and a percentage of the parimutuel sold. Off-shore Betting Shops and Casinos pay a huge licence fee. Dr Eric Williams and his People’s National Movement government ensured that all revenues earned from gaming are placed in a special fund. The government referred to it as “The people’s money returning to the people.”
Through Health Care, social services, education (free up to university level if the child passes the entrance exams and free laptop computers for children in the upper grades, and subsidies for religious and other private schools) and sports.
Gaming has developed into a huge revenue earner for the Trinidad government. At the time when The Bahamas government was thinking of legalizing the numbers racket here, there was a Trinidadian man, who is married to a Bahamian residing and working in Nassau. He had been a director at one time in the Trinidad & Tobago Gaming Commission. I had informed Dr Nottage that this man was prepared to assist the Bahamas government if they wished to take over the gaming business. He has since returned to Trinidad where his children are entitled to receive free education through gambling. The Bahamas government should consider taking over the web shop gaming and add a weekly lottery. Expert help could be obtained from Trinidad. The millions would enrich our Treasury and boost our economy.
PAUL THOMPSON, Sr, ACP-Ret.
January 14, 2021.