Online Gambling to Be Regulated in the Bahamas

Officials in the Bahamas announced plans to put gambling regulations to the vote. Bahama voters made their opinions known more than a year ago when they voted for a proposal to legalize online betting in the island nation.

Online Gaming

Perry Christie, Prime Minister of the Bahamas since 2012, revealed plans to shut down all online gaming operations in the country. The initiative is to begin immediately, drawing support from Ellison Greenslade, the Bahamas’ police commissioner.

Commissioner Greenslade said he would be leading an operation to take down gaming websites as online casino operators appealed to the Supreme Court in an effort to repeal the decision. Gaming providers argue that their businesses do not fall under the jurisdiction of the Lotteries and Gaming Act and should not be affected by the vote.

Support for the Online Gaming Economy

Online casino supporters note that closing these websites would add to the already high levels of unemployment in the Bahamas. So far, no gaming websites have been shut down. Although a huge amount of money was spent staging the referendum, authorities have not made any move to enact the will of the people other than to make promises.

Obie Wilchcombe, the Bahamas’ Minister of Tourism, surprised observers with the announcement earlier this year that he would propose online gaming regulations to the cabinet by the first of July. The Prime Minister said that Wilchcombe made this statement independently, but Christie publicly supported the effort.

Bahamas Government Changes Position

Despite Bahamas residents’ wish to keep online gambling open in the country, Prime Minister Christie said he must contradict the vote due to the country’s financial situation. The unregulated gambling industry generates income for the residents of the Bahamas, but the money never reaches financial institutions or government agencies that need the income.

He said that money laundering and untraceable cash transfers conducted outside the country made the crackdown necessary. The illicit activity could serve to undermine the Bahamas’ standing on the international stage, possibly prompting some nations and organizations to blacklist transactions with the Bahamas.

Recent Shifts In Gambling Trends

The internet’s ability to blur boundaries and society’s acceptance of casino gambling and sports betting ultimately shed light on the inconsistencies and loopholes of American gambling laws. From the makeshift sports book stalls in Nevada, most sports betting activities shifted operations and exploited the possibilities of cyberspace in the mid-1990s. At present, there are numerous online gaming sites catering to sports betting and casino gambling based in countries like Jamaica, Costa Rica, and Ireland.

Despite overseas-based operations, the lion’s share of the revenues and clients of these sites come from American states. In fact, recent studies show that these online casino gambling and sports betting sites earn more than legal casinos operating in Nevada. The profits of online gambling and betting sites are estimated at $70 billion for 2005 alone. This is a staggering amount compared to the reported $2 billion from Nevada casinos. This is enough to overthrow the three-decade reign of Nevada casinos from the 60’s to the early 90’s. Considering that sports book and casino sites have been operating for less than two decades, they are clearly a threat to the thriving Nevada gambling scene.

For decades, Las Vegas is the only place legal for gambling operations. Atlantic City followed suit and made casino gambling legal; the following decades saw the proliferation of state lotteries, card clubs, gaming ships, Indian casinos, and off-track betting salons across the nation. But still, these developments are not enough to compete with online gambling. The industry of online gambling is not even swayed by staunch opposition from legal US casinos. The gambling laws of the United States of America do not help, too. They vary widely from the different states. Most states ban all forms of gambling while some make exceptions. Inconsistencies like these make it easy for online operators to find and use loopholes in the law. The American Gaming Association maintains a defensive stand regarding online gambling. The association pushes for federal laws on the regulation of online gambling. According to them, the unregulated nature of the online gambling industry is its advantage over traditional casinos; regulating it puts both camps on even footing.

But despite this stand, some Nevada casinos are following the old stand-by: if you cannot beat them, join them. November 1998 saw the start of a new trend; traditional casinos started acquiring off-shore online casino gambling companies to improve their profits. An affiliate of the Hilton Hotels absorbed the Australian sports book Centrebet.com. Other Nevada casinos followed and this cycle again spawned a new barrage of debates.

Contrary to their earlier dislike of the online gambling industry, the traditional casinos set their sights higher. They are now pressuring the Congress to pass a law that legalizes online gambling. This is done in an effort to lower production costs; legalization means that they could now shift their operations in the US. Harrah’s and MGM Mirage, the two leading casinos in Nevada and undoubtedly owning their own online gambling sites, lead the casinos in requesting for the regulation of online gaming. Clearly, this move requesting for regulation does not intend to put traditional casinos at par with online sites anymore. The competition shifted between independent online sites and Nevada casino-owned sites. A move to regulate translates to double profits for the Nevada casinos.

Whatever comes out of this new development in casino gambling, gamers are still assured of their gambling fix. Possibly, if the proposed regulation is approved, there would be more security in betting online since it is now under US laws. Like before, casino gambling proves itself to be a dynamic and ever-changing industry.