Director of Labour John Pinder said yesterday gaming houses should not be allowed to operate at this time because they will tempt Bahamians to take “chances” with the money they receive in unemployment assistance.
“I sympathize for those employees who are in the gaming industry who aren’t able to return to work and get a full salary,” Pinder told The Nassau Guardian.
“But, simultaneously, I recognize that there are some persons in The Bahamas who patronize those web shops and are tempted by chances and sometimes they might not be making the right financial decision.
“So, I believe that the prime minister wants to ensure that they are not tempted to spend the couple of dollars they may receive from the unemployment benefit or the unemployment assistance trying to increase it and end up losing it.”
Pinder said the gaming industry is “lucrative”, noting that they contribute to The Bahamas by paying taxes.
However, he said it is not essential enough to open at this time.
“I don’t think they should stay closed but I believe they should open when the other businesses resume the normal way of doing business [when] people are able to manage their funds in terms of being able to pay their bills and have a little something extra for entertaining or socializing,” Pinder said.
On Sunday, during his address to the nation, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis said the recent relaxation of restrictions announced in the May 4 emergency order amendments, which allowed businesses offering delivery and curbside pickup services to reopen, were never intended to apply to the operations of gaming houses.
Gaming houses employ in excess of 3,000 Bahamians and with unemployment projected to reach higher than 30 percent, the Bahamas Gaming Operators Association (BGOA) said it hopes to meet with the competent authority to discuss how the industry can assist in easing the looming economic crisis.
“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,” the BGOA pointed out on Monday.
“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 percent, or more than 51,000 Bahamians, from an already challenged private sector labor force. This deep and rapid rise in severe economic hardships and an increase in the misery index is very real for so many.”