The Bahamas government says it will hold a referendum on gambling but it will not extend to casinos.
Prime Minister Perry Christie told legislators that his administration intends to hold a referendum on the issue of a national lottery and/or web cafes and is in keeping with the ruling Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) governments first 100 days commitments made in its Charter for Governance.
I wish to confirm that it is my Governments intention to proceed with a referendum on the issue of a national lottery and/or web cafes as soon as practicable following the anticipated by-election in North Abaco later this year, Christie said.
The referendum will seek to ascertain whether a national lottery should be instituted and or whether the popular web cafes or web shops be legalised, regulated, licensed and taxed.
The referendum will not extend to any other forms of gambling. In particular, it will not extend to any question as to whether Bahamians should be permitted to engage in casino gaming, the prime minister said.
He said the government would maintain a position of complete neutrality on the referendum issues.
We will not campaign for, nor will we encourage the adoption of, either a yes or no position on any of the referendum issues, he said.
But Christie said the government will actively encourage the widest possible public discussion of the referendum issues to ensure that all points of view on the issues can be heard, read about, and considered by the electorate before voting.
He said that a period of at least 30 days will elapse between the calling of the referendum and the actual voting day, so as to allow for much public debate on the issues.
Officials said the voting process will be similar to a general election, involving the same machinery including using the voters registration list.
The Prime Minister said that only persons who were not eligible to vote in the May 7 general election would have a chance to register.
The new eligible voter will have to register at least 10 days prior to the date fixed for the referendum as specified in the Constitutional Referendum Act.
Once the will of the Bahamian electorate has been expressed and the results of the referendum have become known, the government will make the appropriate announcements as to the way forward, Christie added.