Gambling consultant fees ‘money well spent’
ROYSTON JONES JR.
Guardian Staff Reporter
Published: Oct 21, 2013
The fees of foreign consultants engaged by the government ahead of the gambling referendum totaled hundreds of thousands of dollars, which was “money well spent”, according to Tourism Minister Obie Wilchcombe, though he could not provide exact figures.
The government engaged UK and South African consultants.
The Free National Movement (FNM) has demanded that the government table how much money was paid to the consultants.
“They were here as a part of the referendum, but they were focused on the modernization of the Gaming Act,” Wilchcombe told The Nassau Guardian.
“It was money well spent. We wanted to modernize. You must remember that The Bahamas used to be the leaders in gaming.
“We lost that edge because we have not done anything in the last 20 to 30 years.
“We have got to improve our gaming if we are going to compete with all these new markets.”
The government previously said that gaming industry stakeholders would help cover the costs of bringing in consultants.
When asked whether the government spent millions of dollars on the consultants, Wilchcombe said, “No, not at all. We spent hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament has said it will ask the government to disclose exactly how much it paid the consultants.
Wilchcombe, whose portfolio includes gaming, said the price tag was an investment, but did not say whether the government will reveal the exact figures.
“You have to reach out to get the support you require for the legislation, and we wanted to get widespread [support],” he said.
“We had recommendations that came from the gaming industry itself in The Bahamas.
Minister of National Security Dr. Bernard Nottage, who has responsibility for gaming, recently tabled the breakdown of costs associated with the referendum in the House.
According to that information, the government spent $1,238,092.95 on the January 28 referendum.