If the current Democratic Labour Party Government decides to introduce casino gambling in Barbados it will be doing so without the support of its Minister of Tourism.
St. Michael South Central MP, Richard Sealy, who holds that portfolio in the Freundel Stuart administration made these feelings known today, as the controversial topic of casino gambling was rekindled in the Lower House.
It came during debate on the Cruise Ships (Opening of Facilities) Bill which, among other things, will allow cruise ships docked at the Bridgetown port to operate their casinos over a 12-hour period.
Sealy, while dismissing a suggestion from Opposition Barbados Labour Party spokesman Ronald Toppin that this was tantamount to introducing casino gambling in Barbados, said he did not think there was a need for casinos to boost the island’s tourism product and that he did not support their introduction.
He said rather than helping, such gambling could drive tourists away from Barbados.
“I do not support casinos within the context of Barbados’ tourism development,” Sealy said.
“I say that because I am not convinced that I have seen anything empirical that suggests to me that we are going to see some major increase in arrivals or some major increase in spend as a result of allowing casinos to operate in Barbados.
“(With) the moral argument you get into some very murky water because the truth is that there is a lot of gambling in Barbados already … too much gambling in my view, but I am suggesting that it can be argued on good grounds that far from attracting tourists there is actually a hard core element of our repeat visitors who may stop coming to Barbados if we were to open casinos.”
“And therefore I am not convinced, I am not won over by the argument, that we are in anyway trying to facilitate casinos and that is my position.”
The minister also believed that far from harming, allowing cruise ships to operate their casinos, bars, and shops after dark would help Barbados economically, including through the number of products bought from local producers. (SC)