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Roberts: Govt should change discrimination in Gaming Bill

TANEKA THOMPSON
Guardian Senior Reporter
taneka@nasguard.com

Published: Oct 30, 2013

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Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Chairman Bradley Roberts said yesterday that if the majority of parliamentarians express opposition to discriminatory elements of the Gaming Bill, the government should immediately amend the proposed legislation to give Bahamians the same rights as foreigners.

“It is time for discrimination to be removed and to allow Bahamians full rights to participate in gaming in The Bahamas as [do] visitors to our country,” Roberts told The Nassau Guardian. “That has always been my view.  There is no secret about that.”

Last week, Prime Minister Perry Christie suggested that there is not a consensus in his party over controversial elements of the Gaming Bill that would allow casino operators opportunities that web shop owners cannot lawfully enjoy.

“Members will have an opportunity to speak and as the leader of the government I will have an opportunity to respond,” said Christie outside the House of Assembly.

“...For example, if I’m sitting in there and all the members of Parliament get up, the great majority of them get [up] and say we are against this, what do you expect me to do?”

The prime minister said his views would be guided by debate on the bill.

Yesterday, Roberts said he is sure that PLP MPs will urge the government to reconsider the discriminatory elements of the bill.

“We have a new generation of leaders in the PLP and [not] a single one of them is afraid to express their point of view,” Roberts said.

On Monday, Minister of State for Legal Affairs Damian Gomez said the debate on the Gaming Bill should not be muddled with the argument over whether Bahamians should be permitted to gamble legally in The Bahamas.

He said the Gaming Bill is meant to reform the industry and boost tourist arrivals along with the revenue and taxes earned on casino gaming.

“I want to stress that we are competing with the world and not with ourselves,” said Gomez while speaking at the opening of the Caribbean Gaming Forum at Atlantis resort.

“The discussion of citizens gaming is a completely different discussion than the one we are having concerning our tourism product. To suggest that they are the same is grossly misleading.”

However, Roberts believes the two issues should be dealt with at the same time.

“This is a good time to do it,” the chairman said. “We can do the necessary ammendments. If the majority of the members agree then you can make those simple ammendments right there on the spot to the present bill before the House.”

The Gaming Bill was tabled in the House of Assembly nearly two weeks ago.

Some observers have criticized the government over provisions in the bill that would allow casinos to offer mobile and Internet gaming, while preventing web shops from legally doing so.


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