Letters to the Editor:Allowing gambling is dangerous

The
United Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands has always opposed gambling.
This is principally because it is contrary to our Christian beliefs; but it
affects all of society, with the evidence that gambling leads to a
deterioration of the social fabric as it exploits human weaknesses, undermines
work ethic, leads to increased crime, is destructive of family life and
promotes personal and institutional greed. It exploits the most vulnerable in
society and represents a major transfer of resources from the very poor to the
very rich.

The
United Church understands that Government needs to broaden its revenue base.
Various proposals for a national lottery and casinos have been brought up in
the past, giving similar reasons, namely that Government was running out of
options to raise revenue. However, the country has managed to get by and find
ways to keep the country prosperous without resorting to legalised gambling. It
can continue to do so. 

An
editorial on the subject in the Christian Science Monitor said it well: “A
nation that fosters a reliance on chance and officially endorses a culture of
irresponsibility all in the name of increased revenues and free enterprise is
certainly playing games with its moral foundations.”

Crime
is a serious, escalating problem in the Cayman Islands. Statistics from around
the world substantiate that gambling increases crime. The poor and the youth
are most vulnerable but the problem of gambling can affect anyone regardless of
age, gender, race, or social status. The Commonwealth nation of Australia, that
has long advocated gambling as a national pastime, is now reviewing its policy
because of the growing rate of addiction and the impact on the social fabric of
the nation.

It
is estimated that 10 per cent of problem gamblers and two thirds of those who
are receiving counselling have committed a crime because of their gambling. The
first gambling-related crime is often perpetrated in the same year as, or just
a few years after, starting regular gambling.

Gambling
crime can be divided into four categories:

Illegal
gambling

Crimes
committed to support a gambling habit

Crimes
that occur around the gambling locations

Family abuse

The
major reason for gamblers to commit crimes is to fund their gambling
activities. Gambling crime includes theft, forgery, embezzlement, fraud. It can
also include domestic violence, assault, child neglect, suicide, prostitution,
vandalism, breaking and entering, and home invasion. A significant amount of
the crime related to gambling is not reported to authorities.

Organised
crime has a big stake in the gambling industry. One former Florida governor has
said, “The Mafia follows gambling like sharks follow blood.”  Casinos are particularly attractive to
organised crime.

Casinos
present ideal opportunities for the skimming of profits as well as the
laundering of money already earned through crime. Related crime such as loan
sharking and prostitution follow closely.

Local
proponents of gambling emphasise the supposedly tremendous employment benefits
but have not published hard facts to support this contention. In the US, there
have been, instead, reports of the grave economic difficulties faced by many employees
of casinos. We certainly cannot afford to have any more people in Cayman being
employed in poverty creating jobs. A study published by the Federal Reserve
Bank of St. Louis summarised that: “The employment effects of casino gaming are
difficult to quantify. A casino may draw labour from outside of the local area,
thus leaving local employment conditions unchanged…It is possible that casino
gaming may reduce employment in other local industries… The net effect of
gaming could be positive or negative depending upon the degree to which casino
gaming substitutes for or complements consumption at other local businesses.”
That possibility should not be overlooked here, where existing businesses are
struggling to maintain their individual share of the tourist’s wallet. With
casino gambling now so readily available in the US and our neighbouring
islands, surely the question must be asked as to how will Cayman outshine their
gambling industries that would cause tourists to incur the higher expense of a
Cayman vacation to do what they can do at home or in one of our lower-cost neighbours.
Certainly it seems basic to ask how will gambling differentiate our tourism
product from that of our competitors where it is already available. It is
widely suggested that this blurring of our tourism product in recent years has
been a major factor in its relative decline and instead we must seek to
recapture the differential advantage we previously offered.

The
Cayman Islands has traditionally been known for its friendly, hospitable,
Christian, hard working people.  Crime
used to be almost non–existent. We must all work together to restore that
reputation. Introduction of legalised gambling will not do this. Government has
a moral responsibility to enact laws that do not undermine or weaken the moral
fabric of society. Let us clearly convey this to our elected representatives as
they seek to hear the will of the people. Cayman can learn from the serious
problems encountered by other countries that have extensive gambling and not
follow down that same path. Any potential short term gain does not justify the
long term detrimental effects that gambling will have on our society.

The
United Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands

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1 COMMENT

  1. Prohibiting an activity is not justified simply because some people engage in it to excess. There is no principled distinction between gambling and any other source of pleasure that can become the focus of an addiction, including alcohol and other drugs, junk food,shopping, video games, TV, the Internet, and even exercise. All of these things can be carried to a point where they endanger one’s physical, psychological, social, or economic well-being, although typically that is not the case. In a free society, restrictions should not be imposed on everyone for the sake of the small minority who suffer because they fail to exercise self-control.

    See: http://www.opposingviews.com/questions/should-gambling-be-legal

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