Bahamian government is considering plans to finally allow local population to gamble in casinos.
The Bahamas have a rich casino history, but the problem is: the gambling destinations are only open to foreigners. That can soon change should the government decide to change Bahamian gambling laws and allow local population to enjoy perks of casino gambling.
The special clause in the Lotteries and Gaming Act, which strictly forbids Bahamians from taking part in gambling within their country, is widely considered to be one of the most discriminatory pieces of legislation.
The government has long planned to overhaul the industry and carry out a wide gambling reform. So lifting the ban may become the first step of many to come. It might happen that legalizing online casinos in The Bahamas will also be a part of the agenda.
The required steps
The Bahamas are considering allowing local population to gamble in casinos
• Proposed change to Bahamian gambling laws will finally allow local residents to enjoy casino gambling
• Currently only foreigners are allowed inside casinos
• Web shop gaming regulations will also change
In order for the ban to lift there needs to be a consensus in the in the Cabinet. However, the government can run into difficulties with owners of web shops, who are currently enjoying a monopoly over providing the Bahamians with the only places to gamble.
The web shop gambling activity is currently semi-regulated in the country, but that is also about to change. Obie Wilchcombe, Minister of Tourism, who is also responsible for gaming in The Bahamas, will soon present a new bill. The law amendment proposal will stipulate new rules and regulations for the web shop gambling activity.
The Gaming Bill will also be revised and the new version is expected to be presented before the Parliament soon enough. One of the previous suggestions was that the permanent residents and those with a work permit be allowed to gamble, but further restrictions would be placed on the local population.
That draft didn’t make it through the Parliament. Interestingly enough, the bill was rejected after a very public outcry following the leak of the proposed document’s draft.
What’s next for Bahamian gambling
One of the stipulations in the new gambling regulation draft is placing a tax on Bahamians who gamble. This will provide the long-awaited freedom of gambling to local citizens, but will also provide the government coffers with much-needed tax revenue. An additional levy is being considered to be placed on foreigners who choose to gamble at web shops in The Bahamas.
The Bahamian Prime Minister has already commented that the Constitutional Commission first needs to investigate the matter before advising the Parliament on lifting the casino gambling ban for local residents. However, the Commission printed a report last year, where Chairman Sean McWeeney opined that this matter doesn’t fall into their jurisdiction.
According to the Commission Chairman, a simple amendment to the current Lotteries and Gaming Act could legally address the issue and modify gambling laws. No other changes are needed in case the government decides to allow gambling for local residents.
Reaction from the industry
Casino executives have welcomed plans to allow Bahamians to gamble. George Markatonis, President of the Atlantis, and Sarkis Izmirlian, CEO of the Baha Mar, have both commented they would love to open their doors for the Bahamian population.
Opposition to the bill
However, not everyone supports government’s plans to legalize gambling for the local population. The gambling debate is still ongoing in the country among lawmakers, industry leaders and experts.
Dr. Andre Rollins, Gaming Board Chairman, has already opined he will not support the discriminatory portion of the bill, soon after the document was presented before the Parliament last October.
Renward Wells, MP from Bamboo Town, Gregory Moss, Marco City MP, and Arnold Forbes, MP from Mount Moriah, have also expressed their concerns about the proposed bill extending discriminatory policies towards Bahamians.
Obie Wilchcombe has spoken before the House of Assembly recently, at a mid-year budget debate. However, the Minister of Tourism didn’t address the issue of Bahamians gambling freely in the country’s casinos during his speech.
All cabinet ministers should receive the full draft of the new bill by the end of this month. Wilchcombe has put July 1st as the most probable date for web shop gambling regulation to change. However, it’s still unclear when the debate over the new gambling bill draft will begin and end in the Parliament.