As the government gears up to hold a referendum to further explore regularising the web shop industry, a leading pastor said he welcomes the issue being put to Bahamians in the form of a referendum.
New Covenant Baptist Church Senior Pastor Bishop Simeon Hall said although it is the Church’s position to oppose any steps toward immorality, he has formed a pragmatic position on the issue of regularising web shops.
Bishop Hall said that the reality is that the practice has been happening for years and by not regularising the industry, the government continues to lose millions of dollars in revenue annually.
“Mostly, the people who gamble are those already marginalised with chronic financial and social problems. Yet, I believe the government is correct in seeking to regularise this industry and all that is involved in this trade should be exposed,” Bishop Hall said.
Bishop Hall said that even though the church and the government may have opposing views on the issue, dialogue between the two must continue and he added that both sides have very compelling reasons for their positions.
“I believe that the church’s position is clear. What do you expect the church to say other than we are against it? In principal most clergy people would be against it,” he said. “But it is a multifaceted approach on the one hand, the church is saying we are against it, but on the other hand, we recognise that government cannot just allow these practices and this industry to go on without collecting some form of tax or revenue from it.”
“I believe it is right for the government to put the issue out to the Bahamian people to see where we stand. Both the government and web shop owners have a responsibility to educate the Bahamian people on all sides about gambling. Gambling in our Bahamas is as common as conch fritters. There are some Bahamians who will continue to gamble regardless of what the outcome of the proposed referendum would be. The government is in a tenable position to regularise this multi-million dollar enterprise.”
Bishop Hall will moderate a town hall meeting on the issue of regularising web shops at New Covenant Baptist Church on East-West Highway tonight at 7:30.
Panelists will include Pastor Cedric Moss, Gaming Board Chairman Dr. Andre Rollins, Attorney Wallace Rolle and Free National Movement (FNM) Deputy Leader Loretta Butler-Turner.
Members of the public are invited to attend.