Dr Victor Cooper of New Bethany Baptist Cathedral made the call at a press conference with other religious leaders held to discuss crime.
“Let the people make a decision because the reality is, and sometimes we overlook this aspect of it, these gambling houses are making a lot of money and not paying any taxes whatsoever,” Cooper said.
“There must be some serious consideration given again to the whole issue of gambling with the electorate making a decision as to whether or not this is the way we want to go and then how does the country benefit in return from all the money being expended.”
Bishop Walter Hanchell, president of Great Commission Ministries, said it is time for the country to stop being politically correct about gambling and tackle the social issue head on.
“We have developed into a gambling culture where it is now almost acceptable to gamble. We say that gambling is illegal except for the casinos, but these gambling houses have licenses to operate and they are operating right in front of the police blatantly,” he said.
“We must address it because drugs and gambling are related; in my opinion they all are criminal acts. We need to stop trying to be politically correct and deal with these social issues in the right way.”
Hanchell added that, while he is morally opposed to gambling, he sees it as a discriminatory practice to allow foreigners to gamble legally in the country while Bahamian citizens cannot.
“I stopped gambling 30 years ago,” he said. “I don’t support gambling in any form, but it is wrong to allow a foreigner to have any rights in a country where the citizens don’t have the same right and privilege. That is discrimination against your own people.”
Earlier on in its current term, the Ingraham administration considered the question of legalizing numbers houses, but eventually shelved the idea, promising instead to hold a referendum if it is successful at the next general election.
The issue has been a prickly one for successive governments, which have faced strong objections from the church at any hint of legalizing gambling for Bahamians.
Yesterday, the pastors also decried the current levels of crime and violence in the country and called on their counterparts from other churches to reach out to troubled members of the community.
“Murders are becoming an epidemic. Our leaders, church [and] community must come up with solutions to bring murders to an end,” Hanchell said.
Senior Pastor of New Covenant Baptist Church Bishop Simeon Hall said drugs, gambling, alcoholism and the decay of the family structure are all to blame for the current crime crisis.
So far this year, 31 murders have been recorded in The Bahamas.
Up to this point last year, 37 murders were recorded.