By Candia Dames
30th June 2005
The Gaming Board has completed a report on the feasibility of a national lottery, but its Chairman Kenyatta Gibson indicated on Tuesday that itís not something thatís likely to become a reality anytime soon.
"Weíve looked at it, with regards to the introduction of a national lottery," he told The Bahama Journal. "That report for all intense and purposes is completed, and soon as we make it available to Cabinet, we would thereafter come and let the general public know exactly whatís going on with it."
But he said, "Thatís not an issue on the table right now in any event, and I think once the time comes for the nation to deal with it, we would deal with it in earnest."
It is no secret though that Mr. Gibson is a strong supporter of a national lottery.
He has in the past pointed out that The Florida Lottery conservatively estimates that US$100 million is spent every year by Bahamians playing the Florida Lottery.
"This is money that we can keep here in The Bahamas," Mr. Gibson has said.
He has also suggested that the taxes from a national lottery could be used to fund universal free tertiary education for every qualified student.
In matters as contentious as this one, the most qualified forum to decide definitively on the issue must be the people, Mr. Gibson said in one of his speeches to the House of Assembly where he touched on the issue.
"On moral issues such as these, national referenda are necessary to discuss, assimilate and decide on various courses of action that must be taken on the gaming issue," he said. "I believe that governance, real true democratic governance, is about adhering to the will of the peopleÖThe Bahamas cannot be standoffish."
Tourism Minister Obie Wilchcombe, who is responsible for gaming, also supports the introduction of a national lottery.
He has already revealed that 60 percent of the adult population of The Bahamas spends anywhere from $1.8 million to $2 million both locally and abroad on games of chance each week, and that there are at least 45 illegal gambling houses in New Providence and 12 in Grand Bahama.
"Our choices are very clear," Minister Wilchcombe has said. "We must either strengthen the penalties for this illegal activity or we must find the formula to introduce a national lottery."
Mr. Gibson said on Tuesday that he expects that the new report will soon be made public.