Church opposes new gambling proposals in Turks and Caicos Islands - Wednesday 25th of July 2007

The opponents say they are worried about the effect the change it will have on local life.

Premier Michael Misick said his government intends to remove gambling restrictions on islanders, by allowing residents earning at least $50,000 per year, to become members of casinos.

Turks and Caicos Islanders are allowed to gamble slot machines in bars and restaurants, but are barred from playing the same machines in casinos.

There are two casinos in the British territory -- Players club, opened almost a year ago, and Casablanca, which began operating last month.

They are both located on the main resort island of Providenciales and nestled in tourist areas.

Church leaders have spoken about the proposal, arguing that its passage could have negative repercussions on family life and lead to an increase in crime on the relatively peaceful chain of islands.

Last week religious activists, armed with placards bearing anti-gambling slogans, marched on the Premiers Providenciales office. On both occasions, Mr Misick was said to be out of the territory.

“Gambling is addictive, and when someone who has a house to take care of, go to those gambling house to play those machines, they could end up losing everything, " said the president of the Providenciales Ministers Fellowship, Pedro Williams.

The bill is expected to be debated on August 1 in the House of Assembly, where it is likely to have an easy passage as the government controls 15 of the 18 seats.

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