Thursday, July 12, 2007

Jamaica's Gambling Problem

The two main political parties in Jamaica, the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and the People's National Party (PNP), are distancing themselves from a revenue stream that should have been in place since Jamaican independence. While casino gambling is touted as a sensitive topic, especially since a general election is imminent, the fact is, it should not be considered at all. For Jamaicans, it is a dead issue. You missed the opportunity. Now get over it.

Both parties do not want to anger the powerful church community, which has led fanatical anti-casino campaigns in the past. And I don't blame them either. But it is too late anyway. The time for Caribbean casinos to establish themselves, was long before expansion of the gaming industry in America. A few forward thinking Caribbean nations, notably the Caymans, the Dominican Republic, Aruba, Puerto Rico and The Bahamas, had their casino operations in place long before Americans could gamble outside of Nevada. Nowadays, casinos are virtually everywhere in the States; Nevada, New Jersey, on riverboats along the Mississippi River, and Indian reservations. In my opinion, for Jamaica to directly compete with casino gambling in States-side is foolhardy.

Recently in Jamaica's newpaper, The Gleaner, "With the world-renowned tourism product 'Jamaica' barely passing the three million mark in 2006 - while less-recognised tourist destinations such as Singapore celebrated 30 million tourist arrivals - there are some who strongly believe that casino gambling would add variety to our attractions."


Again in The Gleaner, "The tourism master plan for the period 2001-2010 - established during the tenure of then Tourism Minister Portia Simpson Miller - calls for diversification in the sector to improve and make the product more attractive to a wider range of visitors by having 'greater variety and a higher quality of visitor attractions,' and 'a wider range of recreational and entertainment opportunities.'

Not crap.

The difference is, of course, no mention of casino gambling.

I urge both parties to refrain from the promise of casinos, and concentrate on tourism education in the schools, creating niche marketing opportunities (like eco-tourism, for example), and cut crime in half. That is what the tourist needs to visit Jamaica, and Jamaicans could benefit greatly as well.

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