PLPs want change to Gaming Bill
Guardian Senior Reporter
Published: May 01, 2013
Two senior members of the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) want the government to rethink a provision of the Gaming Bill that would allow work permit holders and permanent residents to gamble in casinos while prohibiting Bahamians from doing so.
PLP Chairman Bradley Roberts told The Nassau Guardian that he agrees with critics who see the proposed law as discriminatory.
In a separate interview, former PLP parliamentarian George Smith, who headed the Hotel Corporation, said he was “baffled” by the proposed legislation and questioned the rationale behind it.
The Nassau Guardian reported on Monday that the bill would allow people outside The Bahamas to gamble on a website established, maintained and operated by the holder of a local gaming license.
But they must be in a country or jurisdiction that permits online gaming.
The bill would also allow work permit holders and permanent residents to gamble in The Bahamas.
Bahamians would be the only group of persons prohibited from gambling.
This element has caused an outcry in some quarters.
“I don’t think that will fly,” Roberts said.
“I can’t have somebody who is employed by me, a foreigner, if I happen to have one employed by me, [who] can go and gamble and I can’t go — no, no, no.”
Roberts stressed that he had not seen the bill but was commenting based on what he heard and read in news reports.
He said he doubts the government would bring legislation to Parliament that contains these provisions.
“I don’t like to speculate,” Roberts said.
“I want to see the bill for myself and I want to see the one that makes it to the House of Assembly. I would be surprised if that is included in the bill.”
Smith said he did not understand how elected representatives could draft a bill that would give foreigners more rights than Bahamians.
“I just can’t wrap my head around it,” Smith said. “I’m at a loss actually. I just can’t comprehend it. It’s just unthinkable as far as I’m concerned.
“I am a great advocate that we ought to change the law to permit Bahamians, and by extension residents, to enjoy any facility that exists in The Bahamas.
“I recognize that maybe we ought to have addressed this before. . .[but] we are now attempting to do something and still exclude the citizens of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas. It’s just unthinkable, unthinkable.”
Cabinet was expected to review the bill yesterday.
Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcombe, who has responsibility for gaming, told reporters yesterday that there are several versions of the bill but would not specify what changes have been made.
He added that Cabinet had not yet reached a consensus on the legislation.
“In the Cabinet you have many people who are opposed generally to gambling so you have a number of personalties in your Cabinet that take strong positions,” Wilchcombe said.
Two civic groups plan to march to Rawson Square today to lobby for equal opportunities for all.
Citizens for Justice (CFJ) will join Citizens for Equal Opportunity (CEO) in its attempt to generate support for its movement, according to CEO member Darold Miller and CFJ spokesperson Bishop Walter Hanchell.
Both groups said the protest goes beyond gambling and will focus on ending discrimination against Bahamians.