A Game of Political-Religious Roulette

Posted: November 23, 2012 in Politics/Current affairs

Not to flog a dead horse, but i know i have already  examined the back and forth between the secular and church points of view on Sunday horseracing in Jamaica in the context of a wider discussion of the separation of church and state. In that post I predicted that that debate would perhaps rage forever. Well based on the evidence of one of the issues grabbing most of the headlines in Jamaica at present my prediction may indeed be spot on. What is stoking the flames of the sacred vs. profane battlefield this time? CASINO GAMBLING!!!

As far back as I can remember this is a matter that has been in the Jamaican discourse and to no avail these discussions have always stalled with the pro casino gambling economic case meeting upon an equally strong anti – casino gambling moral case. Two things in my view have breathed new life into this debate. The first of which was the November 9, 2012 signature in the nations Senate (Upper House of Parliament) of a bill that lays the regulatory framework out of which a Casino Gaming industry. This represents arguably the first real and strong concrete step the Government of Jamaica has made towards allowing casino gambling.

The second, and more earth shattering, flashpoint in this discussion is best encapsulated in the headline of our nation’s most read newspaper on Monday November 12, 2012 which read:  “Catholic Deacon Bats for Casino Gambling.”  The aforementioned quotation is attributed to one Mr Francis Tulloch who is a relatively new Roman Catholic clergyman who in his former endeavours was a Politician and Minister of Tourism in Jamaica. Mr Tulloch despite his religious leanings has stated emphatically his belief that the institution of casino gambling would be of great benefit in the enhancing of Jamaica’s tourism product, the latter being one of the principal engines of the Jamaican economy. This has had equal and opposite impacts on the two factions of this debate. Some segments of the Church are deeply saddened by the proclamations of Mr Tulloch and still vociferously state their opposition to casino gambling on moral grounds. Concurrently the supporters of Casino gambling see this as an example where a balance between the religious views of some and the potentially economic benefit of the collective is being treated in a balanced way, especially by someone affiliated to a traditionally conservative religious grouping.

And it is indeed balance that is needed. Whether the entire populace is in agreement or not I think the democratic processes which govern the way the nation goes are slowly but surely evidencing a majority view in favour of Casino gambling. The potential economic benefits of 1) attracting more visitors perhaps and 2) increasing the expenditure of regular visitors and/or locals in the economy cannot be denied. However, some of the potential social/moral issues that could arise from the large-scale promotion of a casino gambling too are not to be scoffed at. However there are several potentially socially debilitating things that societies are able to regulate and harness to gain benefits from them or at worst lessen their harmful benefits. Alcohol comes to mind as an example.

As such whether I personally support casino gambling (which i wouldnt ban but am not a fan of personally) or not, it is poised to become a reality and as such all the stakeholders must come together to ensure that it is at best a blessing and at worst not a scourge.

Lets hope some of my not so clever wordplay gets some “i see what you did there” responses.

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