Prime Minister Perry Christie revealed more details about the upcoming gambling referendum in the House of Assembly yesterday and outlined how the referendum would take place and who will be eligible to vote.
Mr. Christie said the referendum will not take place until after the pending North Abaco by-election, which is scheduled to be held later this year.
With the country seemingly split on the controversial gambling issue, the prime minister said there is no better way to find out exactly what Bahamians want to do and then make it happen.
“The referendum will seek to ascertain the will of the Bahamian electorate as to whether a national lottery should be instituted and what are popularly called web cafés and web shops, should be legalised, regulate, licenced and taxed,” he said.
“As previously stated, the referendum will not extend to any other forms of gambling. In particular, it will not extend to any question as to whether Bahamians will be engaged in any casino gaming.”
The prime minister said this will not be an issue in the upcoming referendum and said his party never promised that it would be.
He also reiterated that his government and his party will maintain a position of complete neutrality on the referendum issues, adding that they will not campaign for or against gambling.
“A period of at least 30 days will elapse between the calling of the referendum and the actual voting day so as to allow for a thorough and vigorous public discussion of the referendum issues,” Mr. Christie said.
“The questions on the ballot paper will be concisely framed. Each voter will be asked to mark an ‘X’ in either the ‘Yes’ box or the ‘No’ box, thereby his personal position on the referendum question.”
The prime minister explained that just as is in done in regular elections, voters will be required to fold the ballot paper and drop it in the box. The ballots will be counted and a decision declared.
He added that debates and public discussions will take place adding that the media will play a leading role in ensuring the contending views are ventilated during the run-up to the referendum.
“The same persons who were eligible to vote in the last general election, whether they voted or not, will be eligible to vote in referendum, there will be no need to register again,” he said. “As for persons who were not registered to vote in the last general election but who now wish to register and are eligible to do so, they too, will be able to vote in the referendum provided that they register at least 10 days prior to the date fixed for the referendum. This is specifically provided for in the Constitutional Referendum Act.”
The prime minister said once the results are made known as to whether the majority of Bahamians are for or against gambling, the government will take appropriate action.