Perry introducing 'new era' of gaming
Prime Minister of The Bahamas Perry Christie has defended the introduction of legislation dealing with gaming and financial transaction reporting, saying it signals "the dawn of a new era" for the licensing and regulation of gaming.
Christie told Parliament that the country was establishing itself "as a cutting-edge and thoroughly modern gaming jurisdiction, operating in accordance with international standards of best practice, underpinned by robust legislation and careful and comprehensive regulation".
He told legislators that the newly tabled Gaming Bill underscores the overriding objective of his administration to modernise the licensing and regulatory dispensation in relation to gaming ensuring its vibrancy, attractiveness and competitiveness in an increasingly demanding global market.
Last week, the main opposition Free National Movement (FNM) criticised The Bahamas government over the decision to introduce the new legislation saying it was "a violation of every principle of trust, accountability, transparency and fairness owed by a government to the people".
Referring to the gaming referendum, the FNM said that the government had taken the population through a "meaningless public relations exercise", though the Christie government had "committed to respect the results of that failed referendum".
But Prime Minister Christie told legislators that the objective of the government has also been to ensure that The Bahamas, as a gaming jurisdiction, would engender public confidence in the integrity of the sector, through the enactment of world-class legislation.
"We are proud to say that the legislative instruments tabled indeed comply with all these critical requirements and more," he said, insisting that in developing the legislation, the government had taken into account the views of various stakeholders.
"This has required mature reflection and frank discourse regarding the forms of gaming which have taken root in the domestic market in The Bahamas over the years, and the manifold implications of permitting these to continue in an unregulated environment."
Prime Minister Christie said that he remains confident that the gaming legislation comfortably meets and, in some respects, even surpasses all of these demanding criteria.
"No effort has been spared to ensure that this is indeed the case. The Gaming Bill itself encapsulates all of the key policy positions adopted by the government in relation to the licensing and regulation of gaming in The Bahamas. Its purpose is to put in place a solid and predictable legal framework for the comprehensive, modern, transparent licensing and regulation of all gaming sectors in The Bahamas in a manner which protects the integrity of the industry and engenders public trust," Perry told lawmakers.
He said the government was faithful to its pledge to hold a national referendum on illegal gambling operations, known as web shops.
"Following the referendum, we ordered the closure of all web shops. This was followed by legal action by the web shops," he said.
The current legislation is meant to regulate those operations.
"The government simply has had no choice in this matter. That reality was clearly recognised by our predecessors as well and all will know that they were well along the path of developing a legal and regulatory framework for the web shops prior to the last election," said the prime minister.
"If the Caribbean FATF were to come to negative conclusions as to our regulatory regime and the risks that it entails, there could be a very serious fallout and quite dire consequences indeed for our national economic prosperity," he told legislators.