National lottery - Wilchcombe argues for full steam ahead


Tribune Business Reporter

THE establishment of a national lottery could provide the additional revenue to address budgetary shortfalls in areas such as education and social assistance according to an ex-tourism minister who urged the government not to hesitate.

Obie Wilchcombe, minister of tourism with responsibility for gaming under the former Christie administration, said that recent remarks by Finance Minister K Peter Turnquest - indicating the lottery conversation has started within government - was encouraging.

"He says it is not off the table. If the government puts it out to an RFP, there are Bahamian groups who would be interested or they may choose to work with existing gaming companies. The government shouldn't be hesitating to move. It's another way of growing our GDP and the revenue base of the government," said Mr Wilchcombe.

He argued a National Lottery would not only be an attractive sell to Bahamians but could also attract at least a million of the five to six million annual tourists who visit The Bahamas. He previously estimated to this newspaper that a national lottery could generate $150-$200m per annum.

"I'm encouraged and happy to see that the government is talking about it but now you have to move, there's no benefit in delaying. Look at education, for instance, where the minister is saying they need $9 million and only has $6.2 million for school repairs. There is also the issue with cutting back on uniform assistance. We really can't compromise on education. We have to find ways of raising additional revenue and a National Lottery could be the key, Mr Wilchcombe said.