Above: Bahamas Prime Minister Perry Christie (at microphone) speaks to the press
By the Caribbean Journal staff
The government of the Bahamas has postposed a planned referendum on a national lottery until Jan. 28, 2013, Prime Minister Perry Christie announced Tuesday.
The move came from a need for more dialogue, he said.
“I am a Prime Minister who listens,” he said .”And in listening to the still-evolving public discourse on the forthcoming referendum it has become clear to me that more time is needed before the Bahamian people are called upon to vote.”
Christie said he was supported in that view by a “cross-section” of the national community with whom he has been consulting.
“I have therefore decided, with the full support of my cabinet colleagues, to postpone the referendum,” he said. “This will allow sufficient time to facilitate the widest-possible dialogue on the referendum issues and the dissemination of information on those issues.”
He said that his government’s gaming advisors had initially advised that a National Lottery would “not be viable” given the small size of the Bahamian population, and “the competition which would be experienced from the proximity of the Bahamas to the United States with its huge lottery jackpots.”
“Notwithstanding that initial advice, the government has decided it would be in the interest of the broadening of democracy, and consistent with its Charter for Governance, to include a National Lottery in the referendum question,” he said.
The call for a national lottery has been in part the result of years of off-market gaming shops that have become popular in the Bahamas.
On Wednesday, the government introduced a bill dealing with the legal framework of the referendum on web shop gaming and a national lottery.
“I am satisfied that this bill will put to rest such concerns as there may be in the country as to the legal propriety of the referendum,” he said.