Mark Titus, Gleaner Writer
Says gaming will boost nation's tourism
POLITICIAN-TURNED-churchman Francis Tulloch has joined the choir of voices declaring that casino gambling will strengthen Jamaica's tourism product.
Tulloch, a former tourism minister in the P.J. Patterson-led Cabinet, said on the weekend that the country's Second City, considered the Mecca of Jamaica's tourism product, is in danger of further decline and needs a boost.
"As we speak, there are five hotels on the Hip Strip that have closed, and if this trend continues, the Hip Strip will lose its appeal," Tulloch told The Gleaner.
"We have proper beaches and very good adventure tours. The only thing that is lacking is casino gaming," added the ex-politician.
"Coming from me, this might be a surprise, but what I am sure is this will give us a competitive edge and makes us more competitive with other destinations," said Tulloch, a deacon at St Mary's Catholic Church in Cambridge, St James.
Impact on reputation
Tulloch said his comments were against the background that commitments have been given to investors by the Government and could impact Jamaica's reputation. He said his views were not those of the church.
On Friday, Tulloch's former Cabinet colleague K.D. Knight argued that casino, like other forms of gambling, goes against the biblical admonition which says "by the sweat of your brow you shall eat bread".
Knight was instrumental in the Patterson administration turning back a western Jamaica lobby to institute casino gambling in the 1990s.
"I, quite frankly, don't see how we can be so agog about building an economy based on gambling," Knight said in the Senate on Friday as he expressed his opposition to casino gambling.
The Senate subsequently passed regulations which outline the parameters for the application of casino licences.
In piloting the regulations, Leader of Government Business A.J. Nicholson said their passage would "signal to prospective developers and investors that we are now ready to receive applications".
Davon Crump, president of the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry, last week told The Gleaner that casino gaming would boost the city's tourism.
"The Government must now give incentives to hotels to build casinos, with a bias for EP (European Plan) facilities."
The Montego Bay-based Celebration Jamaica group, Grand Palladium Resort and Spa in Hanover, and the long-delayed Harmony Cove development in Trelawny are three entities which have declared their intention to establish casino operations.
During the debate in the Senate, Government Senator Noel Sloley bemoaned the pace at which casino gaming is being implemented. He noted that the regulations were being brought to the Senate four years after former Prime Minister Bruce Golding announced that the country would be opening up to casino gaming.
Sloley said Jamaica's tourism product needed to be diversified and argued that the introduction of casino gambling would make the country a more attractive destination.