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Legalise casino gambling


CARL HARPER

Legalise casino gambling

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Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy has said that even though The Bahamas had casinos, there was no certainty about the extent to which casinos “caused them to get increased [tourist] arrivals”.

Well, Mr Sealy always said it is more about “visitor spend” and employment creation than the arrival numbers, while complaining bitterly about Barbados’ tired and worn-out tourism product.

 
It is for these reasons that he created an agency specifically to handle product development. Casino gambling will therefore be a welcome addition to diversify the offerings on the island.

For the first time, a member of the ruling Democratic Labour Party is opening up the possibility for having casino gambling on the island, after the party has been severely critical of its introduction based on moral principles, and its alleged association with organised crime and prostitution. Let’s see who will threaten to resign if such approval is granted.

Already Dr Denis Lowe, even though voting to allow gambling on cruise ships while anchored in the Bridgetown Port, has stated in no uncertain terms that he will resign if gender-neutral domestic violence legislation is ever passed in Barbados. Dr Lowe even said, while in tears, he will call it quits if the NEEP/Beautify Barbados is not
brought back.

Not far behind is Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite, who also voted for the Cruise Ships (Opening of Facilities) Act 2012. He is taking the moral high road and made it clear that he too will hand in his resignation if marijuana is ever legalised. It is noteworthy how these two parliamentarians have been cherry-picking their vices and sins, and recording their vote.

It is about time Barbados considers legalising casino gambling and stop the pussyfooting and hypocrisy. It is just the “medicine” our ailing tourism product needs at this time. It can be regulated to exclude locals, if lawmakers so desire, or require high annual membership fees to enter.

For an island that has a church at every street corner and Bible-thumping on weekends, there are more lotteries, scratch cards, cock fight and race horse betting, club and church bingo nights, gambling under the tree and in mansions on the hill, games of chance, raffles, lucky dips, store competitions and slot machine arcades than this Christian society wants to admit. Bets are already being wagered that the West Indies will not make it past the first round in the ICC Cricket World Cup, given their dismal warm-up performance.

Who are we really trying to fool that it is more acceptable to permit in-port cruise ship gaming than on-shore casino gambling for the fear of corrupting public morals and encouraging prostitution, mafia-type crimes and money laundering? Well, the “ladies of the night” on Bush Hill, drug traffickers and dealers certainly need no assistance from such legislation, as those illegal activities are all practised in plain sight and brutal killings are almost a daily occurrence.

The spinoff benefits of casino gambling will be huge for the economy – jobs, businesses, economic growth and so forth. If Barbados wants to propel itself as the leader in tourism this side of the Caribbean, we must think big and remove the conservatism. These are the kind of projects the product arm of the new tourism authority should be considering.

St Lawrence Gap and its environs, with much of the infrastructure and superstructure already in place, could be the launch pad for revitalisation – including casino gambling – on the South Coast and resurrection of our tourism.

CARL HARPER

 

 

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