The Web Shops Have A Point

By Rogan Smith |
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It’s not every day that I find myself agreeing with attorney, Wayne Munroe QC. But, his recent threat to challenge a government order which closed the gaming sector a week after it was reopened, makes perfect sense. 

Munroe’s clients, TIG Investments and Paradise Games, which trade as The Island Game, instructed him to take action after the industry was forbidden from offering curbside and drive-through services to customers days after it was allowed to reopen. 

The government issued an emergency order, which, when interpreted, allowed the gaming houses to open in a limited capacity. 

Last week in “The Punch Says,” it correctly pointed out that the emergency order, as drafted, was poorly worded. 

After they gaming houses reopened, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis said, “the order was never intended to apply to gaming houses. This is now made clear in the revised order. It states that permission to engage in home delivery and curbside pickup services do not apply to gaming house operators.”

Mr. Munroe, in an interview with a local daily, said he knows of no medical justification for “singling out” gaming. 

Attorney, Wayne Munroe (Photo courtesy of The Tribune)

Quite frankly, I don’t understand why they are being forbidden from operating either.

“My clients didn’t take it upon themselves to interpret the first order as applying to them. They responded to their regulator, the Gaming Board, writing to them saying they were permitted to do business,” he told The Tribune. 

Let’s be clear. My concern isn’t for the uber-wealthy gaming operators. Not at all. My concern is for the thousands of people they employ – all of whom are hurting and desperately in need of a job.  

Mr. Munroe’s clients have accumulated enough personal wealth to take them through several global pandemics. His clients’ employees, however, have not. 

Imagine the emotional rollercoaster those workers felt returning to work one minute only to be sent back to the unemployment line the next. 

Playing Favorites

There also seems to be a bit of cherry picking when it comes to which vice is considered an “essential service.” The web shops were closed yet again, but the liquor stores have reopened for service. I never knew that alcohol was an essential service to anyone but an alcoholic. 

I’m sure it didn’t hurt that two weeks ago, a top manager at the Bahamian Brewery and Beverage Company voiced deep concerns that half a million dollars’ worth of beer would go to waste due to the lockdown. The company’s General Manager, Gary Sands said his company could not just “eat the cost” associated with products expiring. Sands noted that all of the breweries were in the same boat. 

I do believe there was a tremendous amount of pressure applied to the government to reopen the liquor stores. And given the circumstances, it was probably the best move. But, we must operate with a degree of fairness. What is good for the goose is good for the gander. 

I understand that the gaming houses are not widely respected or accepted by many people, therefore, when something happens that negatively impacts their operations, many find it difficult to sympathize with them. But, at the end of the day, we must remember, the operators are running a business. A legal one at that, and one that pays our government a huge amount of taxes. 

There is not one business owner who can say that he/she is not eager to return to some state of normalcy. And while that may be several months away, I am sure each owner will accept some degree of opening. 

By offering curbside or drive-through services to their customers, there would be very little risk of spreading the virus, so long as the industry implements contactless transactions. 

I am sure the liquor store employers and employees were eager to resume business. The gaming operators want the opportunity to do the same. No person’s job is more important than the other.

Pastors Call Web Shops “Economic Vampires”

If web shop operators or their employees were hoping to find sympathy in Lyall Bethel, Cedric Moss and Alfred Stewart, they’re mistaken. The group of pastors, in a letter to the editor published Friday, applauded the government’s decision to close the gambling houses and urged the Minnis administration to go a step further and shut them down permanently, if it can be done legally.

“If the government cannot legally shut them down, we urge the government to tax them down in an attempt to pay for the financial harm they have inflicted on the poorest among us who gamble and for whom the government must provide the social safety net. 

The pastors said  the presence of gambling houses in the community will only deepen and lengthen the economic recession and threaten recovery gains.

There was, however, no mention of a proposed plan of action to replace the jobs that would be lost if the government were to take their advice.

Shutting down an entire industry that employs thousands of Bahamians, who in turn provide for their families, will never bode well without an immediate replacement to replace those jobs. 

The church is in no position right now to assist Bahamians on a grand scale. In fact, many churches have taken a serious hit because unemployed Bahamians have been unable to pay tithes. So, I don’t know that advocating for the closure of a business or for someone to lose their job is the way to go. And that is what it boils down to when you ask the government to “shut down or tax down a web shop.” 

I also happen to be a huge advocate for personal responsibility and I don’t believe the gaming houses are responsible for people’s poor decisions. No one is forcing Bahamians to gamble. In fact, the majority of people who do gamble, do so responsibly. 

Those with a problem need help and there are avenues to assist them. But, the innocent shouldn’t punish for the guilty. 

XOXO,

This Bahamian Gyal

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