The ‘Say No to Gambling’ campaign easily won the straw poll vote held last week during Toastmasters Club 1600’s, ‘Gambling 101’ seminar.
The straw poll came at the end of a two-hour meeting in which presentations were made by Leader of the Democratic National Alliance (DNA), Branville McCartney; gaming industry consultant, Chigoze Ijoema; Rev. Dr. Phillip McPhee, pastor of Mount Calvary Baptist Church and Dr. David L. Adams, pastor of New Testament Baptist Church.
On Tuesday, a downtown straw poll delivered a similar verdict.
Fifty per cent of the 360 persons surveyed voted ‘yes’ to a national lottery, while 55 per cent voted no to legalising numbers.
Officials, however, tend to discount straw polls for two reasons: the number of votes cast is minuscule and, by their very nature, straw polls are an informal opinion survey not bound by the rules of a real vote.
While the poll’s results are up for debate, the event itself was an indisputable success, according to the club’s Vice-President of Education, Franklyn Winder.
“The programme was most intellectual, enlightening and wholly entertaining,” said Mr. Winder. “The panel delivered persuasive points and the questions were flowing. All perspectives on the topic were heard.”
On January 28, thousands of Bahamians will head to the polls to cast their vote on two critical questions: “Do you support the regulation and taxation of web shop gaming” and “Do you support the establishment of a National Lottery?”
Club president Pedro Young, said the public speaking organisation sought to educate its members and supporters with regards to the various arguments being made for and against the legalisation and regulation of gambling.
“There is a lot of noise in the market. Some gambling opponents take a moral or legal standpoint. Some proponents look at in socio-economic terms, or view gambling as a civil right. We sought to bring all those different viewpoints to the fore,” said Mr. Young. “At the end of the day I believe our audience left more informed on the matter.”
For Mr. Ijoema, the gaming industry consultant, Bahamians should vote yes and “take a stand” for democracy, freedom of choice and Bahamian economic empowerment, correcting what he called a “flawed” constitution and Gambling Act.
“We don’t even need a referendum to right this wrong,” he argued. “It can be corrected by the stroke of a pen. The leader of our country currently has the power to do so.”
Meantime, DNA Leader Branville McCartney would support legalising gambling if the process was properly executed.
Calling the referendum a waste of time and money, the political leader said the public should not be asked to vote on an illegal activity with no proposed legislation in the pipeline.
“You are being asked to vote on the 28, on a position that’s illegal, that’s not [by legal definition] a referendum. If it were to have a no vote we would just revert to where we are now, nothing changes, and if we were to have a yes vote we don’t know where we are going,” said the attorney.
Although he’s never gambled a day in his life, Rev. McPhee sees things differently. Some might call web shop owners criminals, but the pastor hailed them as “geniuses” who through technology have made an industry “come alive” in the last 20 odd years.
According to Rev. McPhee, web shop owners “live like kings.”
“This country is broke,” said Rev. McPhee. “I believe that 10 should not have 300 and 3,000 have nothing. I believe that the opportunity has now come for this nation under the leadership of our prime minister to correct a wrong.”
He told Toastmasters to do what is right and vote “yes.”