May 10, 2020
The Nassau Guardian
Island Luck CEO Sebas Bastian is firing back at the prime minister’s decision to shut gaming houses back down after stating that the amended emergency order last week never intended for them to re-open.
In a national address on Sunday evening, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis said, “These provisions are designed to relate strictly to retail business establishments which can operate efficiently without the need for direct person-to-person physical contact or face-to-face interactions.
“They were never intended to apply to the operations of gaming houses, and this is now made abundantly clear by the provisions of part B of the order. Those provisions specifically state that permission to engage in-home delivery and curbside pickup services do not apply to a gaming house operators.”
In a statement that followed the prime minister’s national address, Bastian, released the following statement: The prime minister’s most recent singling out of the gaming industry in his national address seems like yet another attempt to target a sector that employs more than 3,500 Bahamians.
Why the government is intent on keeping the sector closed and these Bahamians out of work is unclear. What has become apparent is that there is no logic or rationale to support the government’s ad hoc decision-making.
Like other sectors, the gaming industry closed its doors to help mitigate the growing public health crisis, complying with all of the emergency orders announced by the competent authority.
In the case of Island Luck, we committed to paying the salaries of all our employees.
We sought and formally gained the approval of the National Insurance Board of The Bahamas (NIB) to pay unemployment benefits directly to all eligible employees on NIB’s behalf. Additionally, Island Luck paid the balance of any shortfall not covered by NIB unemployment benefits.
These efforts meant that all Island Luck employees received their full salaries for six weeks.
In the interim, our technical team accelerated existing plans for the implementation of new technology, along with our existing drive-through capabilities, physical distancing, and sanitization protocols, to ensure that we can provide our services to Bahamians at the curbside and without entering our spaces.
If government’s core objective is to reduce the possibility of the spread of COVID-19, we have gone above and beyond to meet that objective. In fact, Island Luck has one of the most efficient and well-organized curbside services in The Bahamas.
Given the prime minister’s fingering-wagging at the gaming industry despite these measures, it can only be assumed that reducing the spread of COVID-19 is not the government’s core objective.
And, with liquor stores and other “non-essential” businesses open, we now know that the aim is not to limit so-called “vices” or to restrict the operation of non-essential businesses.
With unemployment set to peak at a record high, likely over 30 percent as asserted by the prime minister himself, one would expect some dialogue between the government and an industry that employs a significant number of Bahamians.
Instead, there has been silence and the gaming industry has been assailed by this government yet again.
The gaming industry is more than willing to do its part to halt the spread of COVID-19 and help return The Bahamas to a state of normalcy.
To avoid further confusion, the government should make clear its decision-making processes as it relates to business openings and take an inclusive approach to this decision-making by engaging industry stakeholders the same way that courtesy is extend to other industries.
Regardless it leaves a glaring question: Are these measures purposeful or personal?