Categorized | National News

Numbers Bosses Unite As Race Enters Final Stretch-Web shop owners lead march on Bay Street

It was an unprecedented show of unity as owners of web shops attempting to sway voters ahead of next week’s gaming referendum, walked hand-in-hand and led a demonstration of ‘Vote Yes’ supporters through the streets of downtown Nassau Wednesday.

Hundreds marched along with the web shop operators as Junkanoo music filled the air – all of this played out as Prime Minister Perry Christie and other lawmakers headed to parliament.

The web shop owners are in the final stretch of the race to secure a ‘yes’ vote in Monday’s referendum, which will ask voters to decide whether they support the regularisation and taxation of the highly profitable and ubiquitous establishments.

Voters will also have to decide whether they support the creation of a national lottery.

The pitch that the owners have been making to voters is that the industry provides considerable and attractive employment opportunities to Bahamians who would otherwise be unemployed.

They sweetened the pot by adding that when regularised – even more jobs will become available.

The web shop operators have sought to remove themselves from the debate and put the focus on the economic gains and employment opportunities that could arise from the industry being regularised.

Those shops were closed until 2:00p.m., Wednesday so that web shop employees could participate in the demonstration and hopefully sell the message of economic and employment opportunities.

Longtime operators Craig Flowers (FML) and Sebastian Bastian (Island Luck) both called on the government to put an end to the criminalisation of the industry.

They, along with other operators, have promised to shut down their operations immediately if the ‘no’ vote wins at the January 28 referendum.

“We are people, we are humans – we are not criminals,” said Mr. Flowers.

“For far too long we have been discriminated against in our own country,” Mr. Bastian said. “We want the same rights extended to us that exist for foreigners doing business here.”

While the demonstration on Bay Street was quite impressive, proponents of ‘Vote Yes’ woke up to some sobering news Wednesday as a poll of 360 people conducted the previous day found that the majority of those voters rejected the regularisation of web shops but favoured a national lottery.

The mock ballot, conducted by the National Polling Commission (NPC), revealed that 55 per cent of those who voted said ‘no’ to web shops being regularised compared to 44 per cent who were in favour.

The numbers were only slightly more favourable on the question of the establishment of a national lottery with 50 per cent of respondents voting yes to 48 per cent who answered ‘no.’

Voters also did not favour Bahamians being allowed to vote in local casinos.

Korvell Pyfrom

Written by Korvell Pyfrom

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