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Wilchcombe: Controversial portion of Gaming Bill not set in stone

Guardian Senior Reporter

Published: May 14, 2013

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A portion of the draft Gaming Bill that would allow work permit holders and permanent residents to gamble but prevent Bahamians from gambling may not be included in the final version of the legislation, Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcombe said yesterday.

“I don’t believe that any part of the document that we have been looking at has gotten a thumbs up from Cabinet at this point,” he said.

“We have heard what people are saying and we pay close attention to what is being said.  When you govern, you have to look at all circumstances and make the best decision for people of The Bahamas.  We are not foolish and we will hear and listen to what people are saying.

“I cannot say right now what’s in and what’s out.”

He also said there is no firm date for the draft Gaming Bill to be brought before Parliament because it is still under review in Cabinet.

“Tomorrow (Tuesday) it will be a part of our discussions.  There are a number of things in there that we are looking at because it’s a very detailed modernization program and to do so you have to ensure that you are discussing detail and determining which is the best direction.”

Wilchcombe said it would be too soon for him to say what changes will be made to the draft but added that the government is keen on passing legislation that will advance the gaming industry.

“The truth is we’re trying to move as quickly as we can because the longer we take the more we lose.”

Earlier this month more than 200 demonstrators marched to Rawson Square and demanded equal opportunities for all Bahamians.  Their protest came after The Guardian revealed the contents of the draft bill.

Recently two senior members of the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) said the government should rethink the controversial provisions.

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.

However Wilchcombe said the outcry may have been premature because Cabinet has not approved those provisions in the legislation.

“This is the problem when documents are leaked.  We have a number of proposed legislation that comes from the AG’s Office.  When people leak documents it creates anxiety and an agenda that does not exist.

“It’s a part of our agenda to advance gaming, there was no urgency for us but because hotels are making recommendations, we wanted to be responsive.  There is no intention to put on the floor of Parliament any document that we cannot stand up and explain to the Bahamian people.  Before we do that we have to understand what the legislation is about.”

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