Above: Nassau (CJ Photo)
By Alexander Britell
Bahamians voted by a wide margin Monday to reject a measure that could have legalized and regulated so-called “web shop” gaming establishments, according to preliminary tallies.
Bahamian voters also rejected a measure to create a national lottery in the country, where gambling is illegal but so-called “web shop” gaming operations are very popular.
The measure had been a major prong of a Progressive Liberal Party administration that sought to put the gambling issue to voters after winning the country’s national elections last May.
Voters from Bimini to the Berry Islands were asked two questions: one, “do you support the regulation and taxation of Web Shop gaming?” and two, “Do you support the establishment of a National Lottery?”
And according to initial results, voters chose “no” on both counts.
In a statement, PLP Chairman Bradley Roberts praised the country for a “wonderful display of democracy,” despite apparently low turnout.
“The Prime Minister was clear that his government would be guided by the results of the Referendum and the will of the people notwithstanding the low voter turnout,” he said. “The people have spoken and have rejected the regulation of Game Shops and the establishment of a National Lottery.”
In the days leading up to Monday’s vote, several high-profile figures, including former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham, announced that they would vote “no.”
Branville McCartney, leader of the third-party Democratic National Alliance, who had raised questions over the procedure of the vote, also said he would be choosing “no” ahead of Monday’s referendum.
What’s next for the country and its web shops remains unclear.
Roberts said that, with web shop gaming being illegal under Bahamian law, the PLP expected that “the government will allocate the necessary resources to enforce the law.”
Updated: Jan. 29. 10:31 AM