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Thwaites holds firm against gambling

Published:Friday | February 26, 2010 | 12:00 AM

CENTRAL KINGSTON Member of Parliament Ronald Thwaites on Wednesday stood firm against the promulgation of legislation to widen the practice of gambling locally, despite a chorus of support from some lawmakers who sang the praises of casino gaming and its proposed benefits to the country.

Known for his public anti-gambling stance, Thwaites scoffed at the so-called benefits of introducing casino in the tourist industry. He said the move to introduce an amendment to the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Commission Bill and the Casino Gaming Act would only serve to worsen the social challenges plaguing the country.

Debate on the two pieces of legislation was suspended for completion at a later sitting of the House.

Thwaites chided the clergy for becoming silent in their opposition to the implementation of casino gaming.

The Government has been pushing for the implementation of casino gaming in Jamaica with investors waiting to spend billions of dollars to establish gaming hotels.

Negative implications

But Thwaites dismissed the notion of creating wealth through casino gaming, contending that the negative implications of gambling addiction were too severe.

He said no one could challenge the fact that gambling had serious addictive consequences. "There is no country in the world that has an established and extensive system of gambling where the problem of addiction has not become a serious social malady," said Thwaites.

The MP charged that Jamaica was woefully lacking in facilities and resources to treat the problem of gambling.

Thwaites said a cursory glance at the Rise Life Management group in Kingston would reveal the chronic problems associated with addictions such as gambling, cigarette smoking and the consumption of alcohol.

Dr Wykeham McNeill, the opposition spokesman on tourism, said the establishment of a separate commission to oversee casino gaming would be a retrograde move. He said the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Commission (BGLC) should provide oversight for casino gaming as well as betting, gaming and lotteries.

To set up another commission, said Dr McNeill would be a waste of resources. He said the technical staff at the BGLC could also provide regulatory support for casino gaming.