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Wilchcombe Responds To Anti Gaming Bill Ads

Tourism Minister Obie Wilchcombe says while many Bahamians have an issue with what is laid out in the Gaming Bill, he hopes common sense prevails when the proposed legislation is debated in the House of Assembly.

The minister was responding to radio ads condemning the government for “treating Bahamians like slaves.”

In an interview with the Bahama Journal yesterday, Minister Wilchcombe said while he believes Bahamians should own the local tourism industry, this has to take place one step at a time.

“The conflict that’s going on in the country is exposing us to a number of areas, but it is important for us to train,” he said.

“We must ensure that our people are prepared for the next step in the gaming industry domestically to ensure that we not only maintain the integrity but also the ability to respond to changing times of the gaming industry and our people must respond, but they can only do so if they are trained to respond.”

Minister Wilchcombe reiterated that the government has no problem with Bahamians owning casinos but that casino must be linked to a hotel entity.

“That’s the way it is. We are not going to get around that. But we have to ensure that Bahamians have the wherewithal and then they can collaborate meaningfully and those in collaboration have the wherewithal to ensure they can sustain the operation of a casino. That’s where we are trying to go,” he said.

“You are not going to give a license to anyone who does not have the wherewithal because the license has been given and then three or four months later you are shut down because you do not have the wherewithal. That’s not good because it will hurt your reputation and we have a good reputation throughout the region.”

Minister Wilchcombe confirmed that there is a conglomerate of about two to three Bahamians seeking to own the Grand Bahama casino.

Under the proposed gaming legislation, hotels will be able to permit their guests to use any mobile device to place bets while they are on the hotel’s property.

Hoteliers have been anxious for the legislation, claiming that it could amount to billions of dollars in revenue as The Bahamas would be able to compete with gaming giants like Las Vegas and China.

Minister Wilchcombe said if Bahamians were to open casinos they would also be able to allow online gaming.

“That’s the law and that’s what we are trying to pass now. We are embracing technology. Technology has brought a number of areas here including internet gaming,” he said.

“But we just had a referendum and in that referendum Bahamians said we ought not to be legalising numbers today, but it did not say we ought not to have a second look at it and have a consultation with the church and at an appropriate time have a process of education and decide where we should go next.”

Minister Wilchcombe said web shops are simply that and casinos have always been an amenity to the tourism industry.

“Over the last 100 years, we have had no issue and no negative impact on the population. I think we have to take note of that. Our model is respected, our model is looked at and we do not want to have social problems like we did years ago when we had to shut down horse racing,” he said.

“That’s why we have to be very understanding of what we are doing.”

Kendea Smith

Written by Kendea Smith

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