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Gambling vote cost $5 million

Nottage says voters were ill prepared
  • Dr. Bernard Nottage.

Guardian Staff Reporter

Published: Oct 04, 2013

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The January 28 gambling referendum cost taxpayers around $5 million, Minister of National Security Dr. Bernard Nottage revealed yesterday.

Nottage, the minister responsible for elections, also said the public was “ill prepared” for that referendum, which failed.

He did not outline what the $5 million was spent on.

The status quo has remained in the months since the failed referendum as a challenge by web shop owners remains tied up in court.

Prime Minister Perry Christie had previously estimated that the referendum would cost more than $1 million.

“I know it’s going to be over $1 million, but I don’t know what the actual cost will be,” he told reporters.

“It is going to be a very expensive proposition, but it is something that the government has to do.”

But Christie acknowledged on several occasions that the government could have legalized web shops “regardless of what the people feel”.

However, he maintained throughout the process that it was a "noble act" to consult the Bahamian people on such a decision.

The overwhelming majority of people who voted in the gambling referendum voted no to regulating and taxing web shops.

Nottage could not say how much the constitutional referendum planned for next year will cost, or how much any future referenda will cost.

Christie announced on Wednesday that a constitutional referendum will take place before the end of June 2014 after a public education campaign.

Yesterday, Nottage said the public should understand the need for multiple constitutional referenda given the complexity of the different issues the government has received recommendations on.

The Constitutional Commission chaired by former Attorney General Sean McWeeney presented 73 recommendations to the government in July.

“The last referendum on gambling and the first one that I had an opportunity to observe, which was in 2002, in both cases the public was ill-prepared to make judgments,” Nottage said.

“The first one really had too many issues in it I think, and the last one was so emotive without people having the facts.”

There were six questions on the February 27, 2002 referendum.

Key among them related to the elimination of discriminatory language in the constitution.

It was the first constitutional referendum held in the country.

In addition to constitutional referenda, the current government has also promised a referendum on oil drilling, which has been foreshadowed to take place in 2015.

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