Bahamas, what did I tell you? This weekend Minister Obie Wilchcombe finally confirmed that the Gaming Bill the government leaked to their people in the media back in May (to start up mischief and furor), won’t be tabled in the form in which it was leaked. Didn’t I say this would be the case?
The same historic provisions in the Bill that Wilchcombe himself revealed – in contravention of Cabinet protocol – about allowing work permit holders and permanent residents to gamble in the casinos, are now the ones he now tells the media will not appear in the Bill once tabled. He says Cabinet has not voted on the whole thing yet by the way, so once again he is acting in contravention of Cabinet protocol by discussing Cabinet deliberations outside of Cabinet.
FACT CHECK – Anyway, the important thing for Bahamians to understand is this. Minister Wilchombe says they wont go ahead with those historic provisions (even though he announced them in the first place) since casino gambling is before the Constitutional Reform Commission for discussion and they don’t want to “preempt” the Commission. But casino gambling has nothing to do with amending the Constitution at all. The Constitution doesn’t make any form of gambling illegal including casino gambling – it simply empowers the government to decide what will be legal for Bahamians and what will not be. So the government is misleading the public with that statement.
The Lotteries and Gaming Act, an Act of Parliament, makes casino gambling illegal for us – not the Constitution. The government today can make casino gambling, numbers houses and any other form of gambling legal for Bahamians if it wants to right now. The Constitution does not need to be touched in order to do that – the Constitution is what gives Parliament the authority to decide on what it will and will not let Bahamians do in terms of gambling. The part of the Constitution that needs to be changed is that provision itself, because it tells the government that if it wants to, it can discriminate against Bahamians on the issue of which gaming they can do and which they can’t. That is the only Constitutional issue here.
It is the Parliament that is blocking Bahamians from gambling in casinos and elsewhere, not the Constitution. And it is the Parliament who can change that right now if it wants to by simply amending the Lotteries and Gaming Act to make casino gambling, numbers or whatever else it chooses to, legal for Bahamians.
So the government needs to stop dumbing-down the public on this issue, misleading them about the Constitution and adding more confusion to an already twisted state of affairs insofar as its handling of gaming in The Bahamas for and by Bahamians is concerned.