11 May 2020
Bahamas Gaming Operators Association (BGOA), responds to the Prime Minister’s decision on the re-closure of gaming house operations.
The Bahamas Gaming Operators Association (BGOA) has been left totally confused by the Competent Authority’s recent national address, singling out the domestic gaming industry in Part B – Order 5 (2) of the amended emergency order, for the re-closure of gaming operations, only after one week of offering curbside service.
This seems like “deja vu” when it comes to the domestic gaming industry – another singling out and discriminatory public policy imposed, while other similar sectors are allowed favourable treatment.
The Bahamas Gaming Operators Association, again observed the preferential treatment being made to some sectors like the liquor establishments. It was the public health officials’ previous recommendation that due to the high level of comorbidity or underlying health conditions (i.e. hypertension, diabetes) resident amongst a high number of our citizens that consumption of alcohol may have led to an increase risk of COVID-19 cases due to the potential weakening of one’s immune system. We wonder if the data has now changed relative to that public health safety position.
This then begs the question of what is the public health concerns for not allowing curbside service for domestic gaming operations, which were limited to deposits, withdrawals, over the counter-ticket sales and bill payments. Patrons were not allowed to enter any gaming establishment or engage in physical gaming activity other than through online means. Clearly, as a sector, we have not been consulted or asked for our input as to how we would have offered our curbside or drive-through services.
The domestic gaming industry operators are licensed entities operating in a highly regulated environment and pay tens of millions of dollars in taxes and fees to the Government on an annual basis. We, therefore, have to ask a few serious questions, like:
1) What are we seeking to eliminate – Covid-19 or only a certain type of business?
2) Is the public health risk the transaction or the business doing a certain type of transaction?
If any sector in The Bahamas was more advanced and equipped technologically, to offer such a service while maintaining strict adherence to social and sanitation protocols – it would be domestic gaming.
We employ in excess of 3,000 Bahamians, many of whom were excited to return to work, regain their ability to earn an income and meet their personal and family obligations.
However, just after a week of offering curbside and drive-through only services and strictly adhering to the social distancing and sanitation protocols, their hopes have been dashed once again. The same is now leading to a ballooning unemployment rate set to exceed 30% or more than 51,000 Bahamians, from an already challenged private sector labour force. This deep and rapid rise in severe economic hardships and an increase in the misery index, is very real for so many.
The Bahamas Gaming Operators Association (BGOA), therefore, invites the Competent Authority to meet with the industry to discuss how we can address the Government’s intent to ease the economic crisis, in its phased reopening of the economy and adhering to all the public safety protocols, in order to get our employees back to work and mitigate against the rising tide of unemployment and all that it represents.
The Bahamas Gaming Operators Association (BGOA) is a non-profit organization that represents the majority of the licensees of the domestic gaming industry.