In recent weeks, some of the country’s leading clergymen have had their say on the illegal numbers business and a town hall meeting at the New Covenant Baptist Church Tuesday night afforded another group of Bahamians the opportunity to do the same.
Four panelists, Baptist Bishop Simeon Hall, pastor Cedric Moss, attorney Wallace Rolle and talk show host Ortland H Bodie Jr., led the discussion on whether or not number shops should be legalised.
A little over three dozen people attended the town hall meeting Tuesday.
Mr. Rolle was very vocal about why he feels the government should legalise gambling.
He said he not only believes that the numbers business should be given the green light, he also wants gaming in casinos to be legalised for Bahamians as well.
“I do not believe that gambling is un-Christian and I do not believe that persons who participate therein are on a straight line to hell any more than people who I believe over eat or over drink or indulge in any activity that is harmful to the body or soul; are un-Christian. The Bible teaches us that ‘there are six things that the Lord hates, ye seven,’ and I am happy to report to you tonight that gaming is not one of them,” he said.
But Mr. Moss disagrees.
He staunchly opposes the numbers business and has called for churches nationwide to stand in solidarity to block its legalisation.
Mr. Moss proposes that if the numbers business is legalised, Bahamians will not be able to exercise self control to manage their finances responsibly.
He asserted that gambling will only add to the country’s social decay.
“Why has the government proposed a referendum on an issue which the constitution clearly states can be decided on by the government without discrimination? Why would the government staunchly oppose casino gambling, but not shut down the numbers house business? If so many people feel that gambling is so beneficial, then why have successive governments not made it legal?” Mr. Moss said.
“They know that gambling is bad for The Bahamas and they therefore do not want to legalise it. Former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham knew gambling was bad for our country therefore he refused to legalise web shops and Prime Minister Perry Christie knows this as well, so he, too, refuses to make the decision. In my view both of them lack the leadership and courage to shut the illegal web shops down.”
Judging from responses given by those who attended the town meeting, Mr. Moss was not alone in his thinking.
“When it comes to gambling in our country, it is wrong – plain and simple. People may want to sugarcoat it as much as they want to, but wrong is wrong, and that’s all gambling is,” Stephen Serrette.
“I know there was a time when alcohol was prohibited, but it was later legalised. We only need to look around today to see the devastation that alcohol is wreaking upon The Bahamas. What do you think will be the results of gambling,” Deidre Clarke said.
“If we know something is detrimental to the country, I do not care how many people are doing it, we have to stand up against it. It is wrong and these number houses needs to be shut down,” Andy Knowles.
Mr. Bodie later asked Mr. Moss what would happen to the hundreds of people employed by number houses if operations are shut down.
“My heart certainly goes out to those people if the government has to shut those number houses down, but they took those jobs knowing full well that those jobs were illegal and if they are left unemployed they will have to adopt the same alternative for everyone else in the country who is currently unemployed,” Mr. Moss said.
In the end both Mr. Moss and Bishop Hall agreed that the government ignored the church’s opposition to legalising casino gambling in the 1960s, but they have committed themselves to take a stronger stance this time around.
Bishop Hall is hopeful that national debate on the numbers business can mushroom so that more Bahamians can become involved in the discussion and decision making process.
The Bahamas Christian Council (BCC) has said that it is “diametrically opposed” to gambling.
The Christie administration has promised to hold a gambling referendum before the end of the year.
02 August, 2012