Categorized | National News

FNM Says Referendum Bringing National Confusion

How the rest of the world now sees The Bahamas could change for the worst if the government decides to go forth with the gambling referendum as it currently exists, according to Free National Movement (FNM) Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis.

Dr. Minnis told reporters at a news conference at the party’s Mackey Street headquarters that as it stands now The Bahamas is seen to be a generally law abiding, peaceful, fair country, but added that after December 3 that could all change.

“The stakes for The Bahamas are very high both in terms of the peace and good order of our own society; in terms of the reputation and perception of The Bahamas abroad, as a formerly well-regulated gaming destination and very significantly also the perception of The Bahamas by international law enforcement and anti-terrorism agencies,” he said.

He added that the FNM’s position on this issue is that the decision of whether to vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ is a matter of conscience for every individual.

“It is, however, the duty of the FNM to ensure that the law of The Bahamas is strictly followed and that people are properly equipped with all relevant information necessary for them to make an informed decision, based upon factual information, so that they can best decide what is in the national interest, not merely what they may like to do, occasionally, in their spare time,” he added.

But according to the Opposition leader, the government has left more questions than answers on the tables and pushed them to answer 17 important questions before moving ahead with the referendum.
“Does the prime minister acknowledge that he, perhaps inadvertently, misled Parliament and the Bahamian people when he claimed to have received “a report” on a national lottery from consultants (which is now just “a few pages”); how can someone who is an ‘experienced’ owner of a criminal enterprise ever have the ‘integrity’ to run legalised web shop gambling operations; how can a person who is ‘experienced’ in the running of a criminal operation ever be a ‘fit and proper’ person for the purpose of obtaining a gaming licence under the lotteries and gaming act, and as required by Bahamian law; what steps or regulations will be put in place to ensure that our anti-money laundering laws and counter-terrorism initiatives are obeyed by web shops in their quasi banking operations and money transfers,” he further questioned.
“How can a mere ‘opinion poll’ or even a non-constitutional referendum change the existing provisions of Bahamian law that any licencee must be ‘fit and proper’ to receive a gambling licence; why has the government removed the possibility of government ownership and direct responsibility for lotteries and gaming from consideration; as a former minister responsible for the gaming board the prime minister is perfectly well aware of the legal public policy set since 1974 that The Bahamas government, through The Bahamas Hotel Corporation, would own, and did take full legal ownership of every casino in The Bahamas. Why and when did the government make such a fundamental and radical change in the policy governing the ownership of legal gambling operations in The Bahamas to allow the casino gambling in web shops to be owned by the private sector?”
Dr. Minnis also wants the government to answer: What will be the transparent, fair and objective standards used to determine which web shops will be permitted to remain in business, if any; where are the draft regulations to be issued under the Lotteries and Gaming Act which will set those fair and objective standards; can the prime minister give an unequivocal assurance to the Bahamian people that this initiative is not largely driven by the self-interests of major donors of money to his party in the last general and bye-election; can the prime minister unequivocally assure the Bahamian people that campaign donors to the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) will not receive special consideration should they apply for a web shop gambling licence; does the prime minister agree that any political parties which accepted monetary political donations from web shop owners, who are presently not licenced to conduct (illegal) gambling, have potentially violated Bahamian law, namely the proceeds of crime act?
“What is the legal basis for the holding of a non-constitutional referendum, or ‘opinion poll’; where did the prime minister obtain his projected figure of $20 million in tax revenue per annum; kindly provide a copy of any actuarial or professional report which justifies such a prediction; would the prime minister kindly provide a copy of any such report which predicts $20 million in annual tax revenue to the Bahamian people; can the prime minister explain precisely how this tax revenue will be raised, is it a casino tax, or merely licence fees; what is the anticipated annual profit for private owners from legalised gambling; is there any proposed tax on those profits over and above licensing fees; if so, at what rate or percentage will such profits be taxed; what exactly does the government plan to spend any increased tax revenue on, education, sports, culture, or what?”
Dr. Minnis said before the referendum is carried out the government should first provide Bahamians with answers to these questions because right now asking them to vote in favour of or against is asking them to take a stance in an issue they do not have all the facts for.
“The Bahamian people do not know the answers to the 17 specific questions that we have asked,” he said. “The Bahamian people just do not know.
“Unless and until these questions are fully and completely answered promptly and in a forthright fashion, that is respectful of the Bahamian people, then the government runs the perilous risk of hearing the shout from every hillside and every valley, from every island and every cay, from every kitchen table and every roof top, if you don’t know, vote no.”

Written by Jones Bahamas

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