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We here in The Bahamas have much to be thankful for. The ravages of Hurricane Sandy swept over our beloved nation but apart from two reported hurricane-related deaths and some minimal property damage, we fared well. Of course, one death is too many but when you look at other nations in the region, particularly Jamaica, Cuba and Haiti, we came out okay.
Once we would have cleaned up and assessed property damage and the economic impact of Sandy, the nation's attention will turn to the proposed national referendum on web shop gambling. This referendum was one of the vital planks on which the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) was elected during the general election on the May 7, 2012.
The "playing" of numbers locally has been around for generations. Back in the day, local number houses were household names. There were other houses but four dominated the landscape.
Daily, patrons congregated at the headquarters of those houses and a bag filled with 100 numbers was thrown into the air and caught by one individual. The ball in the bag that he/she held on to was declared the number for the day in that particular house. Winners would be paid off and the rest was the house's take. Runners, known as number men/women, were paid from the same and the balance went into the coffers of the house operator/s.
With the advent of technology and the Internet, web shops began to proliferate. Today almost on every corner there is a web shop where computer terminals are housed and patrons are able to play a variety of balls in a large number of foreign-based houses. Chicago, New York, Tri-State and Miami are but a few of the same. It is reputed that patrons are able to play in as many as 38 assorted houses for as little as 25 cents.
There are four major local web shops. It is alleged by one of the operators that some $60-100 million is generated each year by the various web shop/house operators on a collective basis. They employ in excess of 3,000 individuals and pay national insurance contributions. In addition, they pay annual web shop licensing fees to the Ministry of Finance, which is headed by none other than the prime minister of the day.
Before licenses are issued there are the mandatory inspections by assorted government agencies, inclusive of the Royal Bahamas Police Force, headed by the commissioner of police. Keep in mind that the COP is mandated to enforce all gaming laws and regulations.
Web shops and number houses are here to stay. The bogus positions being adopted by The Bahamas Christian Council and some denominational churches are ludicrous in the extreme, despite their futile attempts to put a religious spin on them. Well has it been said: "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and unto God the things that are God's."
The role of the church is to promote spiritual, not religious, values. Religiosity, if there is such a word, is literally, killing mankind. It is no different here in The Bahamas. If the collective church was to actually seek to promote and instill spiritual values here in our nation, we would be much better off for it. What does it do instead?
It pontificates that gambling is morally wrong and that it is an addition which leads to: marital discord; the destruction of families; the encouragement of a "gimme" attitude and laziness, and the list goes on. Even some medical professionals have sought to weigh in on what they call "the medical challenges" of gambling addiction.
While all of the above may have some slight merit and the opponents are "right" to oppose legalization (they are already legal in my view); they have absolutely no right to seek to impose their views, however strongly they might believe in them, on mature adults.
Let us call a spade a spade. If you or I have discretionary resources, why should we not be able to play a favorite three or four ball? We work for our income and no entity, be it church or state, should have the moral or legal right to tell us how to spend it. I would concede that they could suggest to you or I the perceived dangers but not to determine our choices.
As a trained lawyer and an expert on gambling/wagering and executive director of The Institute for Public Policy, I will immediately mobilize that organization to support and promote the legalization and regulation of web shops and number houses. Public meetings and debates will be organized in short order so as to bring clarity and to allow the widest possible national debate on this long vexing and abnormal societal perplexity.
Our politicians are in no position to drive the upcoming debate and discussions because by their own admission, most if not all of them would have received financial favors and or political contributions from the web shop and house operators. They are "compromised" on the issue.
Many in the collective church should also continue to seek to be like Nicodemus, who went to see The Master under cover of darkness. He was an established member of the Sanhedrin Council but dared not be seen with Jesus Christ during daylight hours.
Fiscally, The Bahamas is challenged. Some in the church say that we should trust in God to bring us out of it and that it is only a matter of time before things turn around, economically. Yes, as a believer, I too subscribe to trusting in God. As a trained economist, I too accept the proposition that things will soon turn around.
What I do not accept, however, is the stark fact that a handful of individuals, a few politicians,a couple of police officers, allegedly, and their cronies should be hogging up tens of millions of dollars on an annual basis at the collective expense of the playing public. Huge personal wealth is being generated in an untaxed and unregulated industry within our midst. Clearly, this is unsustainable and cockeyed.
The government really does not need to hold an expensive referendum but it is seeking political shelter from any potential fallout. Be that as it may, the church in many forms or the other, conducts and condones raffles and other games of chance on a frequent basis. Many of our pulpit warriors, tin gods and big bloomer pontificators, are alleged to be creased right up in numerous vices.
They are hardly ever able to find their voices to speak about real social and moral ills, but have come out hollering about gambling? Ye hypocrites!
To God then, in all things, be the glory!
- Ortland H. Bodie Jr.
Revamping the national team programs, providing more playing time and exposing the country's top players to high level games are among the other things Charles 'Softly' Robins intends to implement when elected president.
Robins' name, along with two other candidates, were tossed into the hat for the presidental chair in the Bahamas Basketball Federation (BBF). The annual general election is scheduled for October 29. Whoever is elected will lead the more than 15 associations, some financial, for four years.
"We have to take a closer look at our national team programs, especially the females," said Robins. "Much more effort and work is needed when developing these programs. We need to turn our attention to the junior and youth side of things. A strong developmental program needs to be in place from this level.
It's here we teach our players the fundamentals of the game. This can then trickle into the senior programs.
"There is no reason why we can't have more female teams playing around this country. Why can't we have strong female teams representing every association? At least between now and the term's end, I would like to have these things in place. I want to start with Abaco and going on down the line. See if we can get as much ladies teams, as we have men teams. I think we just neglect the ladies and let them go down."
According to Robins, the relationship coaches have with some of the male players should also be seen on the female's end as well. He noted that some coaches are in constant communications with the male players, tracking their performances on a regular basis, but nothing much is done for the females.
Robins admitted to having followed players like Magnum Rolle and others who are playing in the professional leagues in the United States and Europe. But, he said he is looking forward to working closely with female coaches such as Anastacia Sands-Moultrie and Sharrell Cash, assisting them with the growth and development of young female players. Creating a data base, accessible to all will help solve some of the problems, when it comes to tracking some of the athletes, noted Robins.
"We are in the advance technological age, where we can go to a computer and access information easily," added Robins. "This is where we need to take basketball, in terms of communicating with our players. We need to build a site where persons can go and see that national team practices are being held on this date. The site can also provide the general public with information on our basketball players, where they are at and what they are doing.
"If this is in place, then we won't have to be guessing who will be available to play when regional and international tournaments come around. We will know who all are available. International coaches will be able to access our page and see the depth. More interest will be garnered from college teams wanting to play against our female squad. The statistics will also be available to coaches interested in our junior players."
Coaching courses and other ways to educate persons interested in the sport will be provided. The comprehensive agenda, according to Robins, places the athlete's needs first.
By DEIDRE M. BASTIAN
HELP. I am trying to e-mail some JPEG pictures I just took with my new digital camera, but I keep getting a message that says "the file size is too large". Sounds familiar?
Better still, you land on a web page with a gigantic picture. You really want to see the whole thing but, alas, it seems the only way to view it is to use your scroll bars. Sure, you could buy a bigger monitor, better video card, then crank up your resolution, but there's just got to be a cheaper way, right? You bet.
Digital cameras, including phone cameras, have truly come into their own. Millions of people now take pictures and save them to their computers. From there, photos can easily ...
Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) executives are seeing a demand for smart phones from their customers and expect the growth in this market to continue
"We have seen quite a lot of our customers purchasing smart phones. It has become quite a phenomenon since there is a such wide variety of smart phones that are available now," according to Alphanique Duncombe, BTC's product manager for wireless.
"We have seen the demand coming from the local market after BTC started to offer a lot more phones because of their design and functionality. Before launching the 4G technology in December, BTC carried of a lot of basic handsets. Now, coupled with advertising and a rise in the U.S. market, we have seen the demand locally.
"People are realizing the importance of mobility and the ability to do several things on your phone. You need to be able to check your emails on the go. Bahamians are really starting to see the need to have a smart phone. You can't live without it."
Duncombe pointed out to Guardian Business that BTC has seen a significant increase in its number of data subscribers as a result of its 4G launch back in December 2012.
"Every month, we see it going up so we expect to see continuous growth. We have LTE coming up, more demand is there because you don't just want to be mobile but you want everything fast," she said.
"You want to be able to have the same experiences you would have sitting in front of the computer. Once we are able to bring that to the customers, there is no need for the computer anymore. Everything is pretty much done on your device."
"Our data subscribers have risen incredibly and it's continuing to rise now."
In fact, Duncombe revealed to Guardian Business that just in the month of December, BTC sold between 15,000 to 20,000 phones, and most of them were smart phones. She believes those figures can give an idea of how great the smart phone "phenomenon" has been for the telecommunications company.
"We'll definitely see an increase in sales because most of our devices, especially the ones that are coming out next quarter, are in fact smart phones. There will be a new range of handsets that are coming out in the next quarter," she added.
"The smart phones are more affordable in comparison to the last year where you would have had to pay $500 plus for a smart phone. Now you're able to get an android device for $99 so customers nowadays are opting to buy smart phones as opposed to a basic phone that can't really do much."
In March, BTC forecasted a 40 percent "uplift" in data traffic this year after registering an 81 percent explosion in the smart phone usage for 2012.
BTC is targeting both the high-end smart phone market and an even more expansive entry-level market.
The result is far more data usage and ultimately higher revenue for BTC.
The Bahamas Institute of Financial Services (BIFS) held its third annual G-12 graduation on April 1st in the foyer of The Central Bank of The Bahamas. Eighteen students representing both public and private senior high schools received their certificates of completion.
The G-12 Program was launched by the Institute in 2008 and its primary objective is to equip a pool of young high school graduates with the knowledge and skills needed to secure entry level employment in the financial services industry.
Participating students follow a four-module syllabus which includes Business Calculations and Computer Skills, Economic Concepts and Applications, Financial Institutions and Ethical and Management Basics ...
The Atlantis Resort officially opened its nearly 7,000-square-foot Cantor Gaming Race and Sports Book facility yesterday, which will create 20 to 30 jobs and boost gaming revenue.
In the new state-of-the art 6,860-square-foot facility, patrons will be able to wager using Cantor Gaming's mobile sports wagering application on their Apple or Android device, or on their wireless enabled personal computing devices, including tablets and smartphones, with Cantor Gaming's Wi-Fi enabled sports wagering solution.
During yesterday's brief ribbon cutting ceremony, Atlantis President and Managing Director George Markantonis said the resort is already benefitting from the new facility, as it is reportedly "jam packed" on the weekends.
"Right now, we have people sitting on the floors. So we are going to have to bring more lounge and sofa seating. To be honest, we weren't expecting the crowds that we have been getting on the weekends but the beautiful thing is that we have been having to add staff to keep up with the volume," he said to Guardian Business.
"It has generated jobs. We put this bar in, and it is doing huge numbers now. People like to have a drink while they are watching sports. Overall, this whole racing sports facility will be adding 20-30 jobs. The peak season for sports is September 1 through February 28."
After meeting with several sports book operators, Markantonis said Cantor Gaming stood out as the obvious choice for Atlantis to partner with, having several major operations under their belt in gaming powerhouses like Las Vegas. The Cantor Gaming facility marks the brand's first international racing sports location.
"We had a sports book before but frankly, it's like chalk and cheese. That was a dump in comparison to what we have now. They paid for the sports book. They showed a commitment not only to The Bahamas, but also to Atlantis because they wanted to be affiliated with this brand," according to Markantonis.
As sports wagering continues to show significant growth, Cantor Gaming President and CEO Lee Amatis said he saw the opportunity to deploy its mobile technology at the Atlantis Resort.
"Sports wagering is very popular. Having to be able to come this close to The Bahamas to be able to do it, we think it's a fantastic idea. I think we feel comfortable in the fact that we think that the numbers can be significant," he said to Guardian Business.
"It does require a fair amount of risk management because people can win in that regard so you have to be able to do a broader risk management program, which is what Cantor does."
To date, Cantor Gaming has invested $5 million to get the new Race and Sports Book facility at Atlantis up and running. However, he is confident that as business expands, the level of investment will increase.
"Then, there's the investment of mobile technology, which requires servers to be placed on the property. As it expands, it will be hundreds of thousands more dollars. It's an easy investment for us because we know it's going to be popular and we know it's going to create jobs and a lot of interest. So it's very exciting, Amatis explained.
Gaming Board Chairman Dr. Andre Rollins, who also brought remarks at Thursday's opening, said that with a facility like this, The Bahamas could position itself to benefit from the multi-billion-dollar industry.
"It accounts for $300 billion in gaming revenue in the United States of America. Ninety nine percent of that is done outside of the regulated entities so you have a large black market for gaming in the United States," he said.
"The Bahamas could well position itself to assist our neighbors in having a well-policed gaming regime that would allow us to take advantage of all that money that is in the black market."
"I think Cantor Gaming in partnership with the Atlantis casino is definitely on the verge of taking advantage of the huge promise that sports wagering presents."
Now, although I’m sure that we all have an idea of exactly what we feel ‘Work Ethic’ really means; I went to my computer and logged on to the site ‘www.ask.com’ and punched in the word ‘Work Ethic’. Now, here’s what it said “‘Work Ethic’ is when one has integrity in their job. Main traits of a good ‘Work Ethic’ are honesty, reliability, and to be hardworking”. Now, having read that explanation of exactly what ‘Work Ethic’ is all about; let me ask you My Friend, the very personal, but oh so important question posed by today’s title ...
Since the launch of the Auto Skills Program at Her Majesty's Prisons (HMP), over 30 inmates, including 15 prisoners in maximum security, have begun developing basic math, language and reading skills, according to Anita Dillet, director of inmate education and staff training and development at HMP.
The Auto Skills Program is a computer-based instructional initiative that was introduced by the government in January to assist in the rehabilitation of prisoners. It was initially introduced in the school system in 2008 to help students improve their performance in reading and mathematics.
Two computer labs were developed last year; one for the general prison population in the prison's correctional training building, and the second is located in the maximum security facility where there are about 450 inmates.
"They are enthusiastic, and in fact sometimes it's hard to get the inmates off the systems," Dillet told The Nassau Guardian yesterday.
"We have another class that teaches people how to use the computers and there's a waiting list there also. There are a lot of technicalities involved but so far things have been moving along very well.
During the Auto Skills Program launch at HMP on January 24, 2012, Minister of National Security Tommy Turnquest said it was initialized to prepare inmates for employment and self-employment upon their release from prison.
Turnquest pointed out that social scientists internationally have identified a direct relationship between an individual's self-esteem, which affects behavior and their ability to read.
Nearly half the prison population at HMP has difficulty reading and 75 percent have not completed high school, according to prison officials.
"This hopefully will encourage them (maximum security inmates) to diligently work towards their rehabilitative efforts, so that they can advance to our less-restricted housing units and then take advantage of a wider array of academic [and] technical/vocational courses," Turnquest said.
"I am satisfied that the programs we have developed at the prison are working. This is borne out in the rate of recidivism, which is down, and also by the conditions at this institution. I know that all of us want a prison system that we can be proud of [and] I believe that notwithstanding some challenges, we are on the right track."
Since launching the Auto Skills Program in local schools in 2008, the performance of students in reading and mathematic after only one year improved up to four grades based on evaluations, Turnquest said.
Dillet said the HMP's classification board determines inmates who are semi-illiterate or illiterate, and those individuals are targeted to take advantage of the program. She added there are Ministry of Education trained, part-time instructors who directly assist with the overall training.
"This is all a part of the rehabilitative efforts in the prison," she said. "Adults can be embarrassed about not being able to read or write, but with this software they can go at their own pace and there is a real sense of accomplishment."
Prison Superintendent Dr. Elliston Rahming indicated last year that the recidivism rate among inmates is around 20 percent, and for prisoners who elect to use their time in prison the prospect of rehabilitation, reformation and reintegration improves.
Swiss adventurer has become the first person to fly solo across the English Channel using a single jet-propelled wing.
Known as Fusionman, Yves Rossy, 49, landed in an English field after around ten minutes having jumped from a plane above France and fired up the four kerosene-burning jets on his homemade wing to soar across the Channel.
Aliya Allen began her career in 2004 at the Attorney General's Office in civil litigation and chambers. She joined Graham, Thompson & Co. in 2007 as an associate and was quickly promoted to partner in the financial services practice of the firm in 2010. At the time, she was the youngest partner in the firm's 60 year history. Allen was recently appointed chief executive officer and executive director of the Bahamas Financial Services Board.
Guardian Business: What is the biggest challenge facing your sector? What measures need to be taken in The Bahamas to solve it?
Aliya: The intensified competitiveness of global and emerging financial centers has created a major but ultimately surmountable challenge for The Bahamas. An ongoing commitment to and investment in human capital, and raising the quality of our business environment and infrastructure will ensure that we remain well positioned to take advantage of the wealth of opportunities that exist. As a jurisdiction we have taken some important steps towards maintaining our own competitive advantage by passing no less than 15 financial services related bills at the end of last year. For instance, the Trustee Act, which was already a remarkable piece of legislation, is now after these most recent amendments, a beacon of clarity, robustness and flexibility. We have elevated our wealth management platform to the next level.
GB: How has your business or sector changed since the financial crisis?
Aliya: The financial crisis led financial centers around the world to reassess the need for regulation. The conventional theory that markets were ultimately self-correcting was challenged and after long periods of deregulation we all watched as a raft of regulation was implemented in an attempt to strengthen global financial stability.
The problem many would say is that smart regulation and a fair, consistent and balanced approach is what was required, and this is not always the approach that was taken by some jurisdictions. Thankfully, The Bahamas has always erred on the side of smart regulation.
GB: How would you describe or classify the ease of doing business in The Bahamas?
Aliya: We have seen steady improvements in this area but given the highly complex and ever-evolving nature of our competitive industry there is always room for improvement. Both the private and public sector are increasingly cognizant of the need to create advantages that are attractive to doing business in The Bahamas. We need to maintain an open mind and open dialogue on further changes that will enable us to be viewed as a jurisdiction that not only welcomes business but has a progressive attitude for facilitating the conduct of business here.
GB: What should young businesses keep in mind in this current economic climate to survive?
Aliya: That in difficult times marketing should be viewed as an investment, not simply as an expense. This is true for all businesses, not simply new ones and it is the same for financial centers. BFSB understands this paradigm all too well.
GB: What makes a great boss? What makes a bad boss?
Aliya: A great leader has vision and focus but is never hesitant to take advice. Inflexibility and dogged pursuit of your own aims, even in the face of competing viable theories is the surest way to fail.
GB: Can you describe a life experience that changed how you approach business today?
Aliya: can't speak about a single experience that has changed the way I approach business but I can speak about experiences that have shaped how I approach work. When I was a child my parents would make us stand on the dining room table every night and recite poetry and read short stories from the Royal Reader. At the time, it was a chore and we would inevitably groan, "this is boring!" However, it developed my confidence and language comprehension at an early age, and it engendered a love of language and reading that has stayed with me. Those Royal Reader nights taught me that there is no short cut for hard work and that often you have to do things you don't want to do. I've had many "Royal Reader type" of experiences since then; nights when I have stayed up till 3am thinking about a complex problem, or forced myself to go home on a Friday and power up the computer instead of winding down.
GB: What keeps you grounded?
Aliya: My family is quick to point out my failings (in a loving way) whether I want to hear them or not. I have always been encouraged to challenge conventional thought and my ideas are often challenged in the most humbling way. Recognizing my own fallibility has kept me grounded.
GB: What excites you about the sector?
Aliya: The depth of talent and experience in our sector make it an incredibly invigorating space for creative ideas and thought. BFSB has been remarkably successful in providing a forum for some of those ideas to be fleshed out and eventually turned into action. I think the ease of and ability to generate client driven solutions will be the key to our competitiveness as a financial centre and I look forward to facilitating that process going forward.
GB: What are you currently reading, or what is something you've read recently that has been influential?
Aliya: "Thinking, Fast and Slow" by Daniel Kahneman. It is a well-researched and comprehensive examination of behavioral decision-making. Kahneman posits that there are two mental systems, one that is fast and the other slow, that shape our decision-making. The "fast" system is unconscious, prone to snap judgments and easily swayed by emotion and most people are hard-wired to think this way. The "slow" system, is meticulous, conscious, fact-checking and rational and difficult to engage. Sometimes you are called on to make decisions quickly and with limited information and that is unavoidable, but this book has caused me to look more skeptically at decisions I've made in those circumstances and has changed the way I approach decision-making today. Unfortunately, the pull of "fast" system decision-making is that it often "feels" right, but it is more likely to be wrong than you think.