COVID-19 has exposed the economic uselessness of the numbers industry

Dear Editor,

According to Finance Minister Peter Turnquest, the National Insurance Board (NIB) has dumped $146 million into the domestic economy, with 43,200 Bahamians being beneficiaries of its unemployment scheme since March — six months ago — which is over $23 million per month.

Out of that 43,200, some 7,115 are self-employed Bahamians, who don’t typically contribute to NIB.

In addition to the NIB $146 million bailout, the Free National Movement (FNM) administration is currently dumping $1.3 million into the National Food Distribution Task Force on a weekly basis, having assisted 110,000 Bahamians via social services and other organizations. Social services has received $11.9 million so far.

Turnquest’s revelation to Parliament underscores the degree of the COVID-19 economic fallout in The Bahamas.

In a tourist-less Bahamas, very little new revenue is being generated.

It was commonly claimed that tourism accounted for 75 cents of every dollar spent in The Bahamas. Having said that, I believe that the current COVID-19 economic malaise exposes the economic uselessness of the web shop industry and the fallacy of its vociferous apologists, who lobbied the previous Progressive Liberal Party administration to regulate the numbers industry.

Conversely, COVID-19 has vindicated the Bahamas Christian Council and its Save Our Bahamas campaign.

The Christian Council’s oft repeated claims that web shops did not generate wealth, and are essentially economic parasites, have been proven accurate by COVID-19.

Over the decades, Bahamians have dumped billions into the numbers industry, with one particular numbers house being rumored, on a ZNS Radio show in either 2019 or 2018, to have been daily raking in $1 million.

This is one instance of the unjust transfer of wealth that Save Our Bahamas talked about in the lead-up to the 2013 gaming referendum.

Had the hundreds of millions been saved by the Bahamian patrons of web shops, NIB wouldn’t have been relied on so heavily by the 43,000-plus Bahamians, many of whom would’ve been sitting on upwards of $20,000 in savings.

Instead, a few moguls are filthy rich.

Sure, the numbers industry has in its employment 3,000-plus Bahamians. But many of these jobs are paying minimum wage. And granted, the FNM did introduce a sliding scale tax system. Yet it still is tasked with dumping millions into the domestic economy as a stimulus, owing to the fact that many Bahamians are financially depleted, many of whom have frittered away tens of thousands of dollars on buying numbers.

In a January 17, 2013 Nassau Guardian article, the late Theresa Moxey-Ingraham claimed that “more than a third of the adult population participates in the gaming exercises…”

If Moxey-Ingraham was accurate, then one could assume that at least half the 43,200 NIB recipients gambles at web shops.

Had it not been for NIB and its economic bailout, The Bahamas would be in the exact same state as Haiti.

Where are the numbers apologists who made the rounds on ZNS and the two major dailies promoting the economic benefits of the web shop industry?

Truth be told, the numbers industry doesn’t create new wealth, as its very existence is contingent on gambling addicts frittering away their money.

If it was such an invaluable component to the economy, why are tens of thousands of Bahamians, many of whom support web shop gaming, begging NIB for financial assistance?

COVID-19 has exposed the numbers industry as an economic parasite.

Kevin Evans

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