Categorized | Featured, National News

Gaming Bill Passed—Opposition members walk out after historic vote

The controversial Gaming Bill passed in the House of Assembly yesterday with the vote split across party lines moving the historic piece of legislation one step closer to becoming law.

There were 27 government members who voted yes to the bill while the six Opposition members present all voted against its passage. Five members were absent during yesterday’s vote.

Dr. Andre Rollins, who had previously stated his opposition to the bill, was the lone government MP who voted ‘no’.

The government’s bid to regularise the web shop industry has come under fierce criticism from the Opposition, the religious community and even from some members of the governing side.

One attack repeatedly hurled at the administration is that the bill lacks transparency.

In an effort to silence critics, Prime Minister Perry Christie during his wrap up of the debate went to great lengths to underscore how the legislation is above board and in line with international regulations.

Critics have also slammed the government for moving forward with the legislation despite the ‘No Vote’ winning at last year’s Gaming Referendum but the prime minister that the government’s hands were tied in the matter.

“The Government simply has had no choice in this matter,” Mr. Christie said. “That reality was clearly recognised by our predecessors as well and all will know that they were well along the path of developing a legal and regulatory framework for the webshops prior to the last election.

“If we were to ignore this matter, the international community would respond and it is likely that a pall would be cast over The Bahamas as a place to do business. If the Caribbean FATF were to come to negative conclusions as to our regulatory regime and the risks that it entails, there could be a very serious fallout and quite dire consequences indeed for our national economic prosperity.”

The prime minister noted that the Governor of the Central Bank has also raised concerns about the unregulated operations of the web shops, not only in terms of the government’s compliance with international requirements but also as to their nefarious impacts on the domestic financial system, through informal and unregulated lending activities.

“Our commercial banks have also taken a prudent approach to dealings with the web shops, which is fully understandable in light of the international constraints within which they operate,” he said.
Mr. Christie stressed that the formalisation and regulation of web shop operations are the only viable and realistic policy options that are available to the government.

He added that the government has conducted this process in a transparent and stringent manner to ensure that it continues to meet international prudential requirements and solidify The Bahamas’ reputation in the global community.

“Headed up by the Attorney-General, intensive consultations have been held with the Financial Action Task Force aimed at ensuring compliance with the 40 Recommendations of the FATF, while at the domestic level, fruitful and informative engagements have been held with representatives of the Central Bank of The Bahamas and the Financial Intelligence Centre, all of which have greatly assisted the Government in crystallising the key requirements with which the legislation should comply,” Mr. Christie said.

Following yesterday’s voted Opposition members walked out of the House of Assembly in protest of the legislation’s passage which they have called the death of democracy in The Bahamas.

Korvell Pyfrom

Written by Korvell Pyfrom

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