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“Casino gambling would greatly enhance tourism”
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“Casino gambling would greatly enhance tourism”

Jamaicans have long debated the pros and cons of casino gambling, with advocates who foresee economic benefit stalled by the moral arguments of opponents. Shane Cunningham, 24, a Commonwealth Correspondent from Jamaica, says two developments are breathing new life into the debate and may lead to a resolution.

A new issue is stoking the flames of the battlefield of sacred versus profane beliefs in Jamaica.

Sunday horse-racing already creates a sharp divide between secular and church points of view, and is a flash point in the wider discussion of the separation of church and state. Not long ago I predicted the debate would perhaps rage forever.

Controversy now grabbing headlines in Jamaica indicates my prediction may indeed be spot on. What is the issue? Casino gambling!

As long as I can remember this matter has been in the Jamaican discourse, yet it remains unresolved. Discussion has always stalled with the pro-casino gambling economic case meeting an equally strong anti-casino gambling moral case.

In my view, two things breathe new life into the debate. The first is the November 9, 2012 Senate bill that lays the regulatory framework of a Casino Gaming industry. This represents arguably the first strong, concrete step the Government of Jamaica has made toward allowing casino gambling.

The second and more earth-shattering flash point followed three days later in a November 12 headline “Catholic Deacon Bats for Casino Gambling”.  The quote refers to Mr. Francis Tulloch, a relatively new Roman Catholic clergyman and former Jamaican politician and Minister of Tourism.

Despite his religious leanings Mr. Tulloch is emphatic in his belief that casino gambling would greatly enhance tourism, which is one of the principal engines of the Jamaican economy. His statement has equal and opposite impact on the two sides of the debate.

Some segments of the Church are deeply saddened by the proclamations of Mr. Tulloch and vociferously state their opposition to casino gambling on moral grounds.

At the same time supporters of casino gambling see this as an example of balance. It’s regarded as a case where the religious views of some and the potential economic benefit of the collective are being treated in an even-handed way by someone affiliated with a traditionally conservative religious group.

And it is indeed balance that is needed. Whether the entire populace agrees or not, the democratic process that governs the nation appears to slowly but surely indicate a majority view in favour of casino gambling.

The potential economic benefits of attracting more visitors and increasing the dollar amount that regular visitors and locals spend in the economy cannot be denied. It is also acknowledged that some of the potential social and moral issues that could arise from the large-scale promotion of a casino gambling cannot be dismissed. On this point, society already regulates potentially socially debilitating activities and substances to gain benefit or lessen harmful effects. Alcohol is one example.

Whether or not I personally support casino gambling, it is poised to become a reality. All the stakeholders must come together to ensure that it is at best a blessing and at worst not a scourge.

Photo: Commonwealth Secretariat

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About me:

“I am a graduate of the University of the West Indies Mona, holding a MSc. in Government (international relations specialisation) and a BSc. in International Relations (first class honours). My ambition is to serve my country in some public policy formulation capacity as well as to eventually pursue a Phd. with a focus on Development Studies and/or aspects of International Relations and Foreign Policy.”

“I am also a die-hard sports fan especially of football and basketball and a lover of food but not so adventurous as it comes to trying new stuff.”

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?

To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/

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