By Pierre V.L. Dupuch
January 9, 2013
The General Election was held in May of last year. Since then everybody, the Government, the church leaders, the media and the people have been talking about and promoting slackness. It’s become a big deal. It seems to be the biggest, most important game in town. Slackness.
Firstly, we talked about how the oil profits would be shared, and everybody’s eyes got bigger … more oil, less work, more slackness. And we hadn’t even struck oil yet … and probably never will without destroying our most important asset, beauty.
So we destroy one and discover the other. That’s what we call progress, ambition, drive. And all those good things.
The most important subject lately, however, has been extreme slackness, gambling. Making plenty with no effort. Way to go Government … lull the people to sleep, make them slaves again.
Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against gambling. If you want to gamble, so long as you don’t affect those who don’t want to gamble, it’s fine with me.
However, let us look at several scenarios. The one I am about to tell you I personally witnessed on several occasions when I was stationed in Freeport with The Tribune.
A gambler comes in and visits the Lucayan casino. He plays $100,000 and loses it. Depressed, he walks out, goes to Bell Channel, pulls out a revolver and shoots himself. He chose to come here; he chose to gamble and lose; he chose to shoot himself. It may sound heartless, but that’s his business. If it were me I would not recommend such an approach. But what he did would not encroach on anybodys private life or bank account.
I recall a young boy who over sixty years ago went to Bimini with his father to watch the presentation of trophies at a Big Game tournament. He went to his father and said, “Daddy, what’s that funny looking thing in the corner with figures and a handle.”
“Why son, that’s known as a one armed bandit.”
“A One Armed Bandit,” said a curious son, “whats that daddy?”
“Well son,” his father said, “here’s four shillings. Take them, and one at a time, put them in that slot and each time pull the lever. Whatever comes out is your winning.”
The boy took the four shillings and did what his father had said. The first shilling went into the machine, and to the boy’s surprise nineteen shillings came out.
“This is fun,” he thought. And so he continued until the last shilling went in and nothing came out. This took about an hour.
The boy went to his father and said, “Dad, that was fun, please give me another four shillings.”
Sternly, his father said, “No son, no more money. That was your first lesson in gambling.”
The young boy learned that if you have four extra shillings and want to have some fun, you spent it on a slot machine (or some other gambling device). But when it is finished, it is time to walk away from the table.
This is fun. After all, there’s no harm in having fun, is there?
So why not legalize gambling in The Bahamas? This is a free world. The Constitution guarantees our freedom to do whatever pleases us. Right?
But that’s rather broad, isn’t it? A little freedom was lost when Eve joined Adam. Instead of having the whole bed, Adam had to make room for Eve. They had to accommodate each other.
Before cars we were free to walk on any side of the street. And then came cars, and we had to give up some freedom so that there would be order and we would not kill each other.
And then came highways and more freedoms were lost. Speed limits were introduced; exits came on highways and there were more rules and we lost even more freedom.
But this was good because humans had to give up some freedoms so that everyone would be able to enjoy the things around them. So when we make laws, we shouldn’t make them just for a small group; we should be very conscious of the fact that others may be affected. And the lawmakers must always keep this in mind before passing any laws.
When I was a young boy in school in Canada I experienced first-hand how gambling is addictive. One evening I visited some friends who lived on the same floor in the dorm where I lived. My friends were both from wealthy families, one from Trinidad, the other from Brazil.
They had spread a blanket on the floor so that the Prefect below our floor could not hear the dice rolling. This was early evening. Both had already become quite animated. I left and went to my room and bed.
When I woke the next morning the dice game was still going on. The boy from Brazil had lost everything, his silk shirts, his expensive pants, his fancy shoes … everything. They had both become so animated that they were frothing at the mouth.
At this point I said to myself, “This stuff is dangerous. These guys are good candidates to become addicts.” Later on in life one had become a gambling addict.
I have seen many young people who I grew up with become gambling addicts and lose everything, including their parent’s money which they had saved for a rainy day.
Now this is where rubber hits the road. These addicts soon stop paying their bills, their children aren’t fed well, and they can’t afford electricity. Basically they and their families become wards of the state.
This is where the unscrupulous politician comes in. He sees two people, one a gambling addict who can’t pay his bills, and the other who has put his money aside and made good investments so that his family is taken care of and there’s money for a rainy day.
The politician sees a vote. He starts class warfare, pointing out that the “rich man” must be taxed more because after all this poor family must be fed, and proposes laws to tax the person who has saved his money.
This is where innocent people become affected. No law should ever be enacted if it will adversely affect a group of innocent people.
But this, they say, is a small group of people. I say, they can’t take the good and not the bad.
So when this so called high powered “Yes” group who are proposing the legalization of gambling can tell me how they propose taking care of these addicts without affecting the lives of the innocent, I will consider supporting them.
But, to me, this has all been a smokescreen. The real problems facing this country should be addressed and acted on. The Government says it needs money. And it indeed does. But before they are given more, the Government should tell the public, in no uncertain terms, what caused the $100-million overrun on the roads? What’s really happening at Arawak Cay; what’s the story on NIB and the money in Tourism?
The people are entitled to know what happened to their hard earned dollars which were taxed to pay for the operation of the Government. They are not only entitled to know, they must know. It cannot and must not, be swept under the rug.
The people wait, Prime Minister. And they’re running out of patience!