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More opposition to ‘discriminatory’ bill

Guardian Senior Reporter

Published: Oct 23, 2013

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St. Anne’s MP Hubert Chipman said yesterday he does not support “discriminatory” elements of the Gaming Bill that would allow foreign owned casino operators opportunities that Bahamians cannot lawfully enjoy.

Chipman said this was his personal view and added that the Free National Movement had not yet decided how its members of Parliament would vote on the legislation, nor had he had the opportunity to speak with his constituents on the matter.

“I think it’s somewhat discriminatory,” said Chipman of the bill that was tabled in the House of Assembly last Wednesday.

“While they are making provisions for foreign operators and foreign nationals to gamble, I think it’s high time that we try to level the playing field. After all, you are in your country.”

He added: “I’m not a proponent of gambling, but I don’t think someone should be deprived of the right to spend their money.”

The MP also said the bill appeared to be at odds with the Progressive Liberal Party’s election campaign slogan of putting Bahamians first.

“Throughout your plan you were basically saying believe in Bahamians, Bahamians first, but on the other hand you’re telling them not now,” he said.

The new bill would allow casino operators to engage in mobile and Internet gaming, a feature that web shops currently offer to customers.

However, the bill would provide for a restricted interactive gaming license.  Under that provision only a current gaming license holder may apply for and be granted a restricted interactive gaming license.

An operator with this license can offer gaming to citizens of permitted foreign jurisdictions or people on the licensed premises who are not lawfully precluded from gaming.

In January, the government held a referendum asking voters if they supported the regulation and taxation of web shops and the creation of a national lottery.

The FNM encouraged people who were unsure about the questions or the government’s intent to vote no on both questions.

Yesterday, Chipman said the FNM’s stance on the January gambling referendum and the Gaming Bill are two separate issues.

“I believe there are two different things we are talking about here,” he said. “As a Bahamian getting up in the House of Assembly now and saying you support this Gambling Bill by excluding Bahamians, I have a problem with that.

“That’s my view, that’s not a party view; that’s my view.”

Leslie Miller, the PLP’s MP for Tall Pines, told The Nassau Guardian that he could not offer detailed comment on the bill because he had not read all of it.

He said he would speak “frankly” on the matter during the House debate.

He added that it is known that he believes in Bahamian businessmen.

“There must come a time when we as a people must decide on what type of country we want to develop instead of having the foreigner come here with his dreams,” Miller said.

Long Island MP Loretta Butler-Turner said she would fall in line with her party when the bill comes for a vote.

She said it appeared as though web shop owners had been “slighted” by the government.

FNM Chairman Darron Cash also feels that the bill marginalizes Bahamians.

“The overwhelming majority of Bahamians have arrived at a point where they find it intolerable that we will continue to live in a society where such blatant discrimination takes place where Bahamians continue to be treated in law as second class citizens,” Cash said.

The bill upholds the status quo on gambling and prohibits gaming for any person who is ordinarily resident in The Bahamas; is the holder of a permanent residence certificate; is the holder of a work permit or is the spouse of any of those people.

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