Editorial: Taking a gamble

 Many would argue that gambling is alive and well in the Cayman Islands.
   The Observer on Sunday wouldn’t disagree. Thousands of people in the country play illegal number on a weekly basis.
   Many people who travel to other countries buy lottery tickets and visit casinos, taking a chance that they could just break the bank.
   So the notion of opening up casinos on cruise ships while they are in port isn’t such a far-fetched idea.
   The notion was brought up when our Government was discussing with the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association ways to keep the ships in our port longer.
   The rationale is that if the ships are allowed to stay here longer, passengers will get a better experience and leave more of their disposable income in our coffers.
   But we have to ask how many people would be lured off the ships which provide ‘free’ food, comparably priced alcoholic drinks, luxury shopping and entertainment.
   To attract passengers onto our shores, we would have to make some drastic improvements to our cruise terminal facilities – with or without a berthing facility.
   Retailers on the waterfront are also going to have to come up with some lucrative ways to woo passengers from the comfort of the cruise ships.
   And if the cruise ships do decide to stay longer and casinos are allowed to remain open, gambling will be introduced into the Cayman Islands once and for all.
   It doesn’t matter whether Cayman Islands residents are allowed to get on the ships and play at the casinos; gambling will be here, paving the way for gaming to be made legal.
   It’s an issue that can divide a country, but one that has to be addressed by everyone, not just the churches and not just Government.
    It’s an issue that divided communities in the US state of Mississippi where dockside casino gambling was made legal in 1990.
   Prior to Hurricane Katrina in 2005, casinos in the state were generating $500,000 a day in state and local taxes. The hurricane destroyed all of the casinos on the Gulf Coast, harming the state’s budget. To keep casinos in the state, officials agreed to let them move on land.
   Today Mississippi’s 30 casinos generate about $250 million each month.
   There are still those who disagree with gambling in that state, but residents there will tell you they are happy their taxes aren’t exorbitantly high.
   The Observer on Sunday isn’t advocating casino gambling in the Cayman Islands; only pointing at that once the door to gambling is opened, it can’t be shut again.