by Neville Clarke
Even if it is in the Bridgetown Port or on the waters, churches in Barbados are still saying no to casino gambling.
Far from extending gambling to cruise liners, religious leaders are calling for a reduction of the opportunities for gambling already here, citing Government’s proposal for a broadening of what the ships could do as a further corruption of morals.
The Barbados Evangelical Association, an Anglican cleric and Baptist minister today came out strongly against Government’s proposed Cruise Ships (Opening of Facilities) Bill, under discussion in Parliament.
But they were not alone, because in debates in the House of Assembly as well, Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy and Opposition Shadow Tourism Minister Ronald Toppin did likewise in their contributions, noting they did not see it either as any incentive to tourism. While Sealy said no in relation to this form of gambling in Barbados, he supported the cruise ship measure, as Toppin was opposed to it both dock side and land side.
The Barbados Evangelical Association said it considered the addition of casino gambling, even if it was only for tourists, as a step that would further corrupt Barbados’ morals and undermine the spirit of honest enterprise.
In a statement issued by its president Reverend Dr. Nigel Taylor, the body noted: “The BEA opposes the introduction of casino gambling and appeals to the Government to act without delay to arrest the growth of gambling in this nation and also to reduce the number of lotteries which are now draining the resources of the country.”
The statement argued that the suggestion that casinos might be located in the country for tourists could be compared to implanting a cancerous cell in the body on the pretence that it could be isolated from the other cells and would not contaminate them.
The churches further argued that the introduction of casino gambling in Barbados or the extension of existing forms of gambling would be morally harmful, economically destructive, socially intolerable, and a serious disfigurement of our national heritage.
During a Press briefing earlier in the month, Minister of International Business and International Transport, George Hutson had promised to bring a Bill to Parliament in an attempt to extend the time spent in Port by cruise liners.
At the time, Hutson had indicated that by restricting casino gambling to cruise passengers while the vessels were in Port, would give passengers additional time to shop in Barbados.
It was stated that even though the cruise liners leave the island’s territorial waters early, they opened their casinos to gambling without first steaming to another destination.
The BEA, priest-in-charge of the St. Clement’s Anglican Church and a Baptist pastor put paid to the idea today, however, saying they were having none of it.
St. Clement’s priest, Reverend Keith Griffith said: “It may be a subtle way of testing the waters. If we accept that casino gambling should not be engaged in on the land, then it should not take place in Barbados’ territorial waters. There is a contradiction. We cannot detach our territorial waters from the land. Our territorial waters constitute part of Barbados’ land mass.”
Meanwhile, Pastor of the Emmanuel Baptist Church, Vincent Wood, said it was something he would not support.
“Barbados is going in the wrong direction. In the Bahamas citizens are not allowed to engage in casino gambling, while the doors are opened to tourists. If the Bill is passed in Parliament it will not be healthy for the country,” he posited.
Meanwhile in Parliament, Sealy said the moral argument was a “murky” one given the amount of gambling that takes place presently, but nevertheless said it was not the kind of tourism development he had in mind for the island. On the other hand, Toppin accused Government of trying to legalise gambling through the back-door with this Bill.
The BEA said contrary to what was believed, the church had not been silent on the matter. The association stressed that because some Christian churches tolerated some of the less harmful games, such as raffles, this in no way meant that the Church in general approved and sanctioned lotteries and casinos.
The BEA argued that in any event the Church had the right to speak when it perceived increasingly dangerous trends in society, even if it did miss or failed to note the danger signals in the nascent stages.