The highly debated and controversial issue of introducing a legal lottery in The Bahamas was addressed by a noted religious leader yesterday at the weekly meeting of the Rotary Club of Freeport.

Dr. Emmette Weir, pastor of Our Saviour Lutheran Church, presented his case for holding a national referendum on the issue, giving all Bahamians an opportunity to voice their concerns on the matter.

 
The highly debated and controversial issue of introducing a legal lottery in The Bahamas was addressed by a noted religious leader yesterday at the weekly meeting of the Rotary Club of Freeport.

Dr. Emmette Weir, pastor of Our Saviour Lutheran Church, presented his case for holding a national referendum on the issue, giving all Bahamians an opportunity to voice their concerns on the matter.

While he is opposed to the entire notion of gambling, Weir said that we have reached an impasse of this most urgent matter and the "powers that be" must accept or reject the idea for the way forward.

Indeed, Weir said that all matters pertaining to the pros and cons of legalizing or regularizing the wide- spread practice of numbers always is of great relevance of discussions at every level of Bahamian society.

"It takes on new relevance of importance with the de-velopment of the recent raids and prosecution of high profile individuals in-volved in this practice," Weir said.

While many criticize the police for this act, Weir said that they are only performing their duties as they do not interpret or change the laws, only enforce them.

He pointed out that when gambling was first introduced to The Bahamas, many were opposed for various reasons, including im-morality and the idea that Bahamians would not take care of home first before gambling.

"It was also an economic factor that when tourists gambled they would bring money in but if Bahamians gambled the same money would be circulating doing nothing to improve the balance of payments," he said.

Weir said that many of those ideals remain the same today, but others have fully supported the idea of a national lottery and have even sanctioned the idea by proposing that it be established to support education.

In his opinion, Weir said, if leaders felt that education is so important, then it should be funded by our own taxes, not the lottery.

As support for gambling has been gaining momentum, Weir said many have suggested the legalization of gambling would be a step in the right direction as government would receive millions of dollars in revenue from taxing the legalized numbers industry.

Moving forward in dealing with the issue, Weir said it is important to emphasize democracy, Christianity and the rule of law, and he suggested that there be a banning of numbers for as far as possible for six months; discussions of the pros and cons of all people in all walks of life; and a vote to be taken to finalize the matter.

"Our choices will determine what kind of nation that we want for ourselves and our children to dwell in," Weir said. "We make our choices and then they make us."