PLP Chairman Roberts Attacks Opposition Stand on Gaming

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PLP Chairman, Bradley Roberts

The following are remarks by Bradley B Roberts, National Chairman, Progressive Liberal Party, at the Meeting of the New Providence Branch of the Progressive Liberal Party on 20th January 2013 titled, “Leaders who are double-minded are unstable and lack credibility.”

Madam Chair Mrs Komolafe;
Executive Officers;
Branch members, ladies and gentlemen, a pleasant good afternoon

I am delighted to join you in your first meeting of 2013, a year that holds great promise for all the peoples of the Bahamas with a Progressive Liberal Party Government headed by our fired up Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Perry Gladstone Christie and the addition of new generation leaders.

I address you on the eve of the advanced poll to decide on the regulation and taxation of web shop gaming and the establishment of a National Lottery. Let the record show that at all times – as far back as 2010, the Progressive Liberal Party supported the idea of a referendum on this national issue. Our leader and Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. Perry G. Christie has never wavered or flip-flopped on this national issue.

In our Charter for Governance the Progressive Liberal Party committed that within its first 100 days in government it would provide details for a referendum on a National Lottery and gambling in The Bahamas.

True to this promise the Prime Minister in a communication to Parliament confirmed the government’s intention to seek the will of the Bahamian people via a referendum on the issues of a National Lottery and or Web Cafes after the North Abaco Bye Election; this was August 8, 2012.

Later, on November 1st 2012, the Prime Minister communicated to Parliament that a Referendum would be held on the 3rd of December 2012, but only on Web Shop Gaming.

Due to evolving public opinion, the Prime Minister again communicated to Parliament on November 14th 2012 that more time was needed; that the government had decided to add the question of a National Lottery to the referendum and the new date of 28th January 2013 was set to hold the Referendum.

Subsequent to that, the requisite legislative and regulatory frameworks were put in place with the passing of the Constitutional Referendum (Amendment) Act, 2012 in Parliament on the 7th December, 2012 and the Referendum Regulations, 2012 were gazetted on 31st December, 2012 setting out the general parameters for the conduct of a Referendum. Minister of National Security Dr. Bernard Nottage stated in his national address that “these pieces of legislation are to ensure that Referenda in The Bahamas are conducted based on tried and true electoral processes. The Government is committed to fairness, transparency and propriety in the conduct of Referenda and we are satisfied that the requisite legislative regime is now in place.

At all material times the Prime Minister was open, honest, consistent, fair and demonstrated tremendous courage, character and strength in the face of bogus and intentionally misleading statements from the FNM and their surrogates.

Let us now compare and contrast this characteristic with that of the FNM leader:

On August 20, 2012 Dr. Minnis was quoted as saying “I have nothing against individuals gambling in terms of lottery, buying numbers etc.” He also indicated that he would vote in favor of legalization of the numbers industry.

He later said the following: “I have said on numerous occasions, we do not intend to tell people how to vote. Every Bahamian should be guided by their conscience.”

And lo and behold by the 16th January 2013 Dr. Minnis had made a 180 degree turn on the issue and said that “… the Free National Movement has concluded that it will recommend that the Bahamian People Vote NO on question number one.

With respect to Question Number Two, while the Free National Movement in principle supports the establishment of a wholly State-owned national lottery…”
“…we will recommend to the Bahamian People that they vote NO on Question Number two”

Ladies and gentlemen, this is clearly a man who does not know his own mind and does not believe his own words so why should anybody trust Dr. Minnis. He is clearly double-minded and St. James said that a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways. Dr. Minnis has no credibility as a leader and his word cannot be trusted.

What is more astounding is that  a Cabinet document CO2246 which was recently published online by Bahamas Press disclosed minutes of a Cabinet meeting that took place on the 21st May 2010, the following observations by the then FNM government were made:

“…the Law Enforcement Agencies have been ineffective in enforcing the laws against illegal gambling.”

“The observation was made that most of the “numbers houses” have duly applied for and obtained Business Licences.”

“…the State itself has added legitimacy to these operations by accepting Business License submissions and issuing duly approved licenses.” (repeat)
The communication revealed that the FNM government intended to “take steps to regularize these operators which have escaped national accounts for years.”

The document also revealed that the FNM “Government might hold a Referendum with the government not taking a position on gambling but undertaking to abide by the decision of the citizenry in such a process.” (repeat)

The very positions Dr. Minnis held while he sat around the cabinet are the same positions he is now urging the Bahamian people to vote no because of.

Dr. Minnis is well aware of the draft regulations called the “COMPUTER WAGERING LICENSING REGULATION 2010” that his government lacked the courage to bring to Parliament, yet he tells Bahamians to vote “NO” because of the absence of regulations.

Further Madam Chair, Officers & Members, the Progressive Liberal Party is confident that the Bahamian people fully understand that the Government cannot regulate an enterprise or industry that is illegal so this hand wringing by the FNM over word choices is intellectual dishonesty at its worst. The Attorney General Allyson Gibson pointed this out in a press statement on Friday.

The government of The Bahamas has a track record of growing, managing and regulating the casino industry to international standards for over fifty years. May I add that I was privileged to serve as Chairman of the Gaming Board back in in 1991-92. I am obliged to remind Bahamians that Archdeacon Murillo Bonaby, a well-known Anglican Priest and Rev William Miller of Church of Christ Highbury Park, both served as members of the Gaming Board and there were nay a word of objection from the Church Community. I was proud that during my short tenure the numbers of Bahamians employed in the Casinos escalated.

The wholly Bahamian owned local gaming industry is viable and profitable, sustaining over 3,000 jobs and pumping millions of dollars into the local economy. In a fully regulated business environment, the profits will remain within the local economy, boosting the country’s national savings and improving the government’s revenue performance through fair taxation. The proposed Initial Public Share Offering will expand the ownership franchise of this industry to all Bahamians.

Regulating the industry will bring greater accountability and transparency to this industry so it’s a win-win proposition for all Bahamians

A “YES” vote in the upcoming Referendum on the 28th January 2013 legitimizes this viable and profitable industry and removes the “black market” stigma the industry carried for decades. A “YES” vote eliminates the current underground cash economy connected with the industry, protects the Bahamian economy and provides a legitimate platform for expanded economic empowerment and ownership opportunities for many Bahamians. The PLP is now obliged to encourage Bahamians to make this bold and progressive step in the economic interest of the country by voting “YES” on Referendum Day.

The facts are clear that the FNM once supported this bold initiative, but lacked the strength and courage to see it through on behalf of the Bahamian people. They now seek to sow seeds of confusion to cloud the salient issues through lies and muddy the waters to hide their narrow and selfish political interests.

The PLP urges all Bahamians to see the broader national picture and vote “YES” on Referendum Day.

Contrary to the Public Relations of The No Vote Campaign in my humble opinion the majority of Bahamians will cast their votes in favour of the Yes Vote as those who participate in Web Cafes and Lotteries strongly desire to have the long dark clouds removed from their heads.

Thank you for the opportunity to address you and good afternoon.