It is likely that casinos, if introduced in Cayman, would create jobs for locals.
Several case studies and impact reports in other areas point to significant employment connected to casinos. But church leaders have warned that many of the positions would likely be low paid and that casinos could hurt other local businesses.
More than 15,000 Bahamians are employed in the industry in a wide range of jobs, from croupiers and card dealers to security managers and accountants.
It is unlikely that the Cayman Islands could or would wish to attempt anything on the scale of the mega-resorts in the Bahamas.
A better guide to the potential for job creation through casinos can be found in a green paper produced by the Bermuda government to inform the debate over potential legalisation of this type of gambling.
With a population of 65,000 and an economy underpinned by international business and tourism, Bermuda is similar enough to the Cayman Islands to make the impact estimates of the report valid.
The study estimated that a single moderately sized casino in Bermuda would directly employ 855 people. It was estimated that figure would double when indirect employment opportunities and additional business as a result of the casino operation were thrown into the mix.
A short-term construction boom to build the casino was predicted to bring 230 additional jobs.
The Bermuda green paper, produced in 2010, was shelved after legislators bowed to pressure from church groups to maintain a legal ban on gambling.
No direct impact studies have ever been carried out in the Cayman Islands, though Hard Rock Café boss Kevin Doyle did produce a report for the Cayman Islands Tourism Association in 2010.
Mr. Doyle’s report pointed to job-creation as a significant potential benefit.
Commenting on job opportunities at the time, he said: “The casino floor is made up of dealers employed as roulette, craps or card dealers.
“These are all well-trained positions, which usually attract smart young people, good with maths, accurate and reliable at counting, with the ability to work and focus for long hours on both day and night shifts. The average age group is usually below 35 with floor supervisors and pit managers tending to be upwards of 35, but unlikely to be over 55.”
University of the West Indies professor Ian Boxill, who produced a study on the potential impact of casino gambling in Jamaica, agreed there was potential for job creation.
But he warned that big casinos had the potential to ‘cannibalize’ local businesses if they targeted local people.
He said casinos that targeted visitors were generally more successful.
“Increased revenue and employment are usually the result of having good and properly regulated casinos, assuming that they are treated as an export, meaning that they target visitors rather than locals. When casinos target locals they often create many problems like the cannibalization of businesses and redistribution of income locally.”
He added that it made sense to have casinos as part of a larger business, such as a hotel or entertainment and conference centre, rather than stand-alone businesses.
Church leaders have cast doubt over the types of jobs casinos would create. The United Church of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands campaigned against casinos when the issue was last raised in 2010.
In a press statement the church’s leaders said: “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.
“When casinos target locals they often create many problems like the cannibalization of businesses and redistribution of income locally.” IAN BOXILL, UWI