Gambling issue not clear cut

Whether people are for or against legalised
gambling in the Cayman Islands, the issue is one that evokes strong opinions
from residents.

The Cayman Ministers’ Association and at
least one specific church have come out against gambling, partially on moral
grounds.

Many businessmen support casino gaming,
because they feel it can diversify Cayman’s tourism product and bring
much-needed revenue to the government and to the Cayman Islands as a whole.
They argue casinos as just another form of entertainment that doesn’t have to
be any more expensive than a night out at a good restaurant.

Much of the debate here so far on the
prospects of legalising gambling has centred on emotional arguments that
generalise the issue.  However, gambling
is not a simple issue and the Cayman Islands is not the first place to struggle
with the decision of whether to legalise it or not.  Indeed, US states, Canadian provinces and
entire countries have conducted many studies about the impacts of gambling on a
society and the ways to mitigate those impacts.

The studies have shown that how gaming is
regulated and operated has a lot to do with the impacts on society.  There does appear to be a link between
legalised gambling and increased crime, but certain places in the world – like
Europe – have been able to minimise the prevalence of crime by implementing
strict guidelines in casinos, including who can enter.

The truth is, the argument is not as clear
cut as some would have us believe. 
Gambling does bring with it certain inherent problems, including the
possibility of creating compulsive gamblers. But Cayman already has many compulsive
gamblers playing the illegal lottery and others doing different legal,
self-destructive, compulsive things like drinking, chain smoking and
over-eating, giving credence to the argument that gambling doesn’t create the
underlying problems of dependency.

Then there’s the argument from the church
that gambling is a sin.  Well, there are
millions of Christians in the world who go casinos and many churches that
operate some form of gambling – whether raffles or bingo – as a way of fundraising.  It’s not surprising then that some people
find the church’s stance hypocritical.

Make no mistake; legalised gambling would affect
Cayman in ways both good and bad.  The
task of the Cayman Islands’ people is to determine if the positives outweigh
the negatives or vice-versa and then make an informed decision on the issue.

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