The Bahamas Weekly Facebook The Bahamas Weekly Twitter
Columns : The New Bahamian - Joseph Gaskins Last Updated: Feb 6, 2017 - 2:32:04 PM

Dis Ga Be Long: How the Handling of the Gaming Referendum May Be a Clue to the Next Five Years
By Joseph Gaskins
Nov 16, 2012 - 11:34:35 AM

Email this article
 Mobile friendly page

After a long day on campus -- lecturing, meetings, helping students find advisors for the registration period -- I happened into one of those new Cable Beach restaurants for lunch. You know the ones, kind of swanky but casual in the style that is reminiscent of the Euro-American bistro movement. I ordered a pint of Kalik draft and a salad to go, finally exhaling, looking forward to coming home and writing a lit tle. Out of no where, I see a police car, people getting up and none other than the Prime Minister darkening the doorway, effortless dimming the lunch time chatter.

I v e written and spoke a lot about the Prime Minister and his policies, but this was my f irst time being in the same room with him. At the risk of sounding like a political sycophant, to see him in person humanized him. It is often true of academics, especially those who study people, that the people we write about, in our minds, aren t really people at all. They tend to be concepts, numbers or variables in a theoretical scheme -- they are not humans.

My order was up and excited by the prospect of adding this experience to article I intend to write anyway, I rushed through the dinning area to my car. Before I could get to the door a table seemingly jumped in my way. I bumped it and everything on the table came crashing down. I stopped, picked up a single wine glass and imagining that the entire dinning room stopped to see who could be such a k lutz, in a matter of strides I was out the door. How embarrassing!

On the drive home, I repeatedly replayed the moment in my head. As is the case with most embarrassing moments, I m probably exaggerating. In no simple terms, I was flustered. I mean, if I know anything, it s how to make an exit, and with the Prime Minister and a host of influential people looking on, that damned table got in my way.

Then it hit me out of the clear blue sky! Why should I be embarrassed? If anyone knows what it s like to w alk into something and see it all come crashing down, the Prime Minister should. I mean, I can t think of a better metaphor for the mess that has become this gaming referendum, apart from the surrey horse falling dead on Christie Street perhaps .

Luckily for me, my ordeal transpired over a matter of seconds. The conflagration of chaos and confusion that has come to characterize the agonizingly slow marc h to what is now an opinion poll on gaming has dragged on over months and will continue into the new year. In short, D is ga be long!

For me, the question isn t whether the referendum will pass. At this point, I m unconcerned with the egocentric, intell ectually dishonest, knights in shinning Christian armor here to defend the hapless Negro Bahamian from the predators that seek to suck the tithes away from our very pockets. I am similarly unconcerned with the well-funded, well-oiled S ay Yes campaign mac hinery headed by the so called n efarious characters that, by all appearances, seem to have the Bahamian government on a money-green leash.

The real important question is, how is it that the Bahamian people have allowed it to even get to this point?

I think the value of this question can be realize through a brief look back at our trajectory up to this moment.

Before the May 2012 general elections, the now Progressive Liberal Party government promised to, Provide details for a referendum on a Nationa l Lottery and gambling in The Bahamas, in their First 100 Day Plan for Governance. The details we eventually received were actually on a referendum for the legalization and regularization of web-shops in the Bahamas. This did not include the possibility o f a national lottery upon the advice of a UK consultancy firm hired by the government.

This advice discouraging a national lottery was contained in a report, then not in a report but in a few sheets of paper which the Bahamian people have been unable to r eview! Not only have the Bahamian people been unable to review this report-turn-binder full of advice, but we don t know how much we, the tax payers, have spent for said advice!

The Prime Minister seems to have hired this firm to advise us on what would b e appropriate moving forward without mention of the cost and without being invoiced. Essentially, we are left with a report that we can t see, but that we will eventually pay for at a cost we don t know. It must be nice having the public purse at your disp osal.

Thankfully, the Bahamian people have elected a Prime Minister who listens. Despite the advice we can t see but for which we will eventually pay, the Prime Minister opted to reintroduce the question of a national lottery. A date is set. December 3rd , 2012 the Bahamian people would head to the polls to decide two questions on gaming in the Bahamas.

Finally, an end is near...except there s a small problem. All of sudden we r e not even sure a non-constitutional referendum can be executed by a governmen t agency like the Parliamentary Registrar which is apparently mandated by the constitution to carry out elections and constitutional referendums only.

I don t know anything about this stuff; I m a sociologist. However, with a House of Assembly populated by too many lawyers, in my opinion, and with a government headed by a seasoned barrister, we find ourselves at a constitutional impasse mere weeks before the proposed date of the promised referendum.

What makes this even more troubling is that this refer endum could - in fact - be a constitutional one.  As Mr. Alfred Sears states in The Guard ian on November 15, 2012, the source of the discriminatory treatment Bahamians face on the issue of gambling is found in the derogation clause of Article 26 (4) (e) in the constitution. While Article 26 (1) states that no law shall be discriminatory in it self or in its effects, Article 26 (4) (e) makes the exception when it comes to Bahamian citizens and gambling. By erasing this clause, Bahamians would be free to engage in numbers, establish a national lottery and participate in casino gambling.

Putting aside that the constitution should be a foundational document that affirms the rights of Bahamian citizens, why have not considered a referendum question that would alter this discriminatory clause?

I don t know the answer to this. Again, I am not a law yer. It may have something to do with not allowing the native savages into the casinos, but I m not going to speculate. 

Thus, we arrive at the point which inspired the question I posed above. Realizing now that new laws have to be passed to adjust the l egal framework to accommodate this non-constitutional referendum, the Bahamian people will now head to the polls on January 28, 2013.

In the meantime, through his parliamentary communication, we have gained greater insight into what might happen if this referendum passes. For example, licenses will be granted upon receipt of a $1 million cash bond and proof of integrity and previous experience in the gaming industry. In other words, the only people who will get a gaming license are those who can raise $1 million and who have been engaged in an industry that is currently illegal. In other words, the government is asking the people engaged in a now illegal industry to prove their integrity, as well as pay $1 million from the proceeds of that illegal industry . Let s just say my dreams of opening G askins Good Luck Number House have been absolutely crushed.

Beyond the bumbling, backtracking, bewilderment surrounding this referendum, there is a greater issue at hand. Is this what we are to expect for the fou r and half long years ahead?

I said in an earlier piece that no matter your political persuasion we should all be intent on the s uccess of the PLP government. Their exceptional performance is essential to the survival of the Bahamian people and the maintenance of a high standard of life in a nation that has long been the modern jewel of the Caribbean. I have to admit, though, that g iven what I v e seen so far, I m afraid - very afraid.

The Bahamian people have two options. We can stay silent, go to the polls and vote our conscience on the limited questions that are borne out of the objectionable context described above. The other op tion is that we can say loudly and emphatically that we will not accept what has been given to us. Sign a petition , call your representatives, protest, make your discontent known, otherwise dis whole ting ga be lon g.


Joey Gaskins is a graduate of Ithaca College, Ithaca, NY with a BA in Politics. He was born in Grand Bahama Island, studied at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) where he attained his MSc in Race, Ethnicity and Post-Colonial Studies and has begun a Doctoral Degree in Sociology.  Joey  lives in Nassau and is a part-time lecturer at College of the Bahamas. He also writes for  the Nassau Liberal  www. nassauliberal. webs.com  and The Tribune.

You can reach him at  j.gaskins@lse.ac.uk


Bookmark and Share

© Copyright 2012 by thebahamasweekly.com

Top of Page

Receive our Top Stories

Preview | Powered by CommandBlast

The New Bahamian - Joseph Gaskins
Latest Headlines
At All Costs: Stopping The "Global Gay Agenda"
Opportunity in the Challenge: Leading on the Referendum Could Mean Winning the Election
The Hair and Now: What #SupportThePuff Should’ve Taught Us
The Politics of Natural Disasters (And the Unnatural Disaster of Politics)
The Way Forward: The Political Value of a Bankrupt Tourism Policy