Gambling, in all its various forms, including the lottery, has long remained a source of national and moral contention. Admittedly, it has also been manna from heaven. Gaming helped to make the fortunes of the modern Bahamas, and still does.
For local citizens however, ever since its legalisation for tourists, gambling has been prohibited. Until quite recently, that is.
Communication by Prime Minister Christie on Web Shop Referendum November 14, 2012 – Bahamaspress.com
Web shop gambling was legalised in September 2014, after much public debate and a 28th January 2013 national referendum which voted against its introduction.
Bahamian MPs vote yes to legalising web shops – The Tribune
Web Shop gambling allows betting on American lottery numbers because, the Bahamas in all of its history, has never had its own national lottery. Or, so we thought.
In 1959, however, something strange was happening right under the government’s noses or with the government’s blessing. Whichever it was, the Americans were alerted to it and were on the lookout for particular envelopes coming from the Bahamas. America didn’t even get its first lottery until 1964 in New Hampshire, so they were naturally alerted to what amounted to illegal offshore gaming, targeting its citizens. Envelopes originating from somewhere in the islands, probably Nassau, contained lottery tickets from a so called Bahamian operated lottery.
There was only one problem, everyone knows that the Bahamas has never had a national lottery in its history.
The UBP majority government had only just voted for tourist slot machine gambling the previous year in 1958, so how could an annual lottery be taking place, right under the noses of the Bay Street oligarchs?
LOTTERY TICKETS SEIZED
BAHAMA Envelopes First Spotted in Miami Office
Daytona Beach (AP)—- About 150 envelopes containing tickets to a lottery in the Bahamas and addresses to local residents were intercepted here this week.
Postmaster C. W. Curtis termed it “the heaviest mailing” from this particular lottery in recent years. The lottery involved is an annual event conducted legally in the Bahamas.
Americans are forbidden by federal law to participate in it.
Postal Inspector Delphi Hackney said most of the envelopes were spotted first in Miami, the port of entry post office. They were permitted to proceed through regular mailing channels after being rubber stamped with the notation: “Supposed to contain matter of prohibited importation.”
When the batch of envelopes arrived here all addresses were notified that mail was being held for them at the post office.
“When the addressee came in, we asked them to open the envelopes in the presence of a postal employee and to turn over any prohibited material be contained.” Hackney said.
Meanwhile postal authorities at port cities throughout the US have been alerted to watch for envelopes addressed to lottery agents in the Bahamas which might possibly contain checks or money orders in payment for tickets which weren’t intercepted” the postmaster said.
(Miami Florida, October 16, 1959, The Miami News )
Part of the mystery as to who may have been running the 1959 lottery may be linked this article coming out of Washington, DC, about the activities of one United States Congressman in 1961.
HOUSE MEMER STARTED A LOTTERY IN THE BAHAMAS
WASHINGTON, —Dapper, chipper Congressman Abe Multer, a power on the House banking committee, sought to get around the banking laws he helps write for this country by quietly establishing a bank last year in the Bahamas.
A long way from his native Brooklyn, the Bahamas could become a haven for depositors who want to establish secret accounts. For its banks are permitted to operate under the same secrecy as those in Switzerland.
Multer not only helped found a Swiss-style bank in Nassau but arranged for it to handle a lottery. The Guarantee Trust Company, as the bank is impressively called, also accepted 265 counterfeit $1,000 bonds from the late Gene San Souci, a high teamster official.
However, Multer had nothing to do with this latter transaction.
Nassau is a tax haven. That was the principal reason for establishing a bank there. The Swiss-type banking was almost incidental feature,” the Brooklyn Democrat explained to this column.
Asked about the lottery, which is called Medical Award and is similar to the Irish sweepstakes, he hesitated.
“Medical Award is a lottery,” he said at last. “It operates legally in Bermuda.”
“Did you bring it to Nassau?” I inquired.
“They asked me to organise in Nassau,” he acknowledged. “They came to me as an attorney.”
How did a Bermuda lottery operator happen to approach a Brooklyn congressman?
“A lot of people come to a U.S. Congressman,” he explained critically.
Multer claimed he sold his interest in the bank last November, but his partners insist he is still president.
“I sold out on November 23, 1960,” he said. “I got 10 percent over what I paid.”
But Miami attorney Irving Wolff, the bank’s secretary, insisted to this column that the congressman merely expressed a desire to sell.
“An agreement was executed, but it was never carried out. It fell through.” Wolff reported. “Multer has not been paid off yet and still remain president of the bank in name.”
Whatever his current status may be in the Bahamas, banking and gambling is a curious sideline for a member of the House banking committee.
(The New Jersey Times, Wednesday 23rd August, 1961)
Gambling (slot machines) was only approved in Nassau in May 1958. No lottery was ever legally approved in the Bahamas. Or was it?
(31st May 1958, Nassau Herald)