CITA urges caution on gambling in Cayman

As Bermuda prepares to gamble on casinos, Cayman wary of following suit

As Bermuda’s government prepares to introduce gaming legislation as a potential “game changer” for the island’s struggling economy, tourism chiefs in Cayman believe lawmakers here should take a more cautious approach. 

A planned referendum in Bermuda was scrapped and the government announced plans to bring to a vote legislation to legalize gambling in the country’s legislative assembly early in 2014. 

Craig Cannonier, the premier of Bermuda, announced the decision at a press conference this month, saying the move was designed to create jobs and “end the misery” of thousands of Bermudians caused by the island’s shrinking economy. Tourism officials in Bermuda feel casino gambling is key to attracting a new hotel development to the island. 

For Cayman, though, the economic situation is not quite so dire. And though casino gambling has its advocates, many, including the Cayman Islands Tourism Association, believe there are far more pressing issues to consider in the new year. 

“We do not think Cayman should rush into following Bermuda on this,” said Tim Adam, the secretary of CITA. 

He said CITA members, based on survey responses, believe the issue of gambling should be decided only after a public education campaign and a referendum. 

“We would need to consider what type of visitors gambling might attract, and there should also be studies done on whether Cayman’s existing visitors would be in favor of or against the introduction of gambling,” he added. 

Bermuda has faced a similar quandary over gambling for several years, with the balance between social and religious concerns pitched against potential economic benefit in an ongoing debate.  

The seriousness of the island’s economic predicament appears to have convinced lawmakers there to take a gamble. 

In October, politicians gave the green light to cruise ships to keep their casinos open in port. Cayman’s tourism minister Moses Kirkconnell has previously suggested that the island would need to consider something similar to convince cruise ships to make regular overnight stays in Grand Cayman. 

Mr. Adam suggested Bermuda’s decision to roll the dice on gambling would not have repercussions for Cayman and could even backfire for the rival territory. 

“As a tourist destination, Cayman has for several years successfully competed against many other Caribbean destinations that already offer gambling, so if Bermuda introduces gambling it is doubtful that would have a significant negative impact on tourist arrivals here,” he said. 

“Of course it could even turn out that we get some tourists coming to Cayman to avoid Bermuda because of them introducing gambling.” 

He said research should focus on tourists who would be turned off by gambling, as well as those who would be attracted. And he suggested the impacts of casinos in other jurisdictions had not all been positive. 

A report in Bermuda, prior to the recent decision to bring gambling to the Legislative Assembly, highlighted some potential downsides, including the negative effects a casino has on other businesses nearby, the issue of whether locals are allowed to gamble, and social costs.  

“The pros and cons of gambling and its anticipated socioeconomic impacts would have to be carefully analyzed and shared with the public before CITA could be in a position to make any such recommendation to the government in favor of or against introducing gambling,” Mr. Adam said. 

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4 COMMENTS

  1. I am a long time visitor to Cayman. For 11 years I have been vacationing here with my family (and my brother’s family too) at least one a year sometimes twice. My children have great memories of this country. My 11 year old niece was here before her first birthday and has been here every year since. The reason I chose Cayman as a family vacation spot was for exactly what it didn’t have. Crime, theme parks and gambling. Cayman is an expensive country, an expensive vacation, but it was worth the extra cost to come here. Now, after all theses years, Cayman has two of the three things I was escaping from…crime and theme parks (in the form of dolphin parks). You might as well add a casino or two and put the final nail in the coffin. I spend thousands of CI every year here. I can easily spend much less (MUCH less) elsewhere for the same mediocre experience at Seaworld, Disney and Las Vegas. Think carefully before bringing gambling to the Cayman Islands.

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  2. Gambling is just one part of a tourism product. It’s a business decision that needs to be carefully evaluated and implemented. At the moment we have neither the infrastructure nor the resources to develop and manage a gamming industry in Cayman. My suggestion is that we improve the tourism product that we have first. There is so much that still needs to be done and we haven’t proven that we can maximize our return on the product that we already have. For example why is 7mile beach so under developed? No sidewalks and bush covered empty lots everywhere with no obligation for speculators that land banked these properties to cleanup, landscape and maintain their properties. The list can go on and on. Demonstrate that we are good managers of the tourism product that we have first and then consider expanding our product offering.

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  3. I think properly controlled, a casino is good idea. One not a lot. It should be toward the east side away from SMB. Locals should not be able to gamble there. It will bring people who do not come and, if kept away from the family stuff, it will not cause a problem.

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  4. Mr.Buck
    As a visitor to what we call our little slice of paradise I could not agree more. My family has been going to Grand Cayman for close to 20 years. My family started coming here for the exact reasons you mention. We are seriously thinking that this year may be our last because of the downward spiral that we have witnessed. Although it is still a wonderful place to go we may have to start to look again for the great things we used to experience in Grand Cayman. I have never been upset about spending more money than I could at other destinations knowing that my family and friends that I have brought along over the years were safe from crime and just the general safeness of this great island. I have seen quite a few things in the last few years that have made me start to think this way. Crime is up. The lack of the government actually trying to fix these problems and now gambling is on the horizon. Just ask the people that actually live in Vegas or Atlantic City what they have to deal with. More Crime, filth and despair than they could have ever imagined. Please think carefully before bring gambling and all that goes with to this island.

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