Bartlett scolds casino critics - Tuesday 27th of May 2008

In his most scathing remarks yet against the detractors of casino gambling, Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett, on the weekend described their objections as irrational and illogical and maintained that the attraction would be controlled.

"Dont be carried away by the notion that casino gambling is going to be rampant in Jamaica," Bartlett insisted Saturday at his East Central St James Education Council annual Teachers Awards held in this tourist resort city. "You wont see a casino in every corner of Jamaica."

He said the notion that casinos would be set up on every corner of the island in a similar fashion to betting shops or cash pot outlets, leading to Jamaicans becoming addicted, was driving the irrational fears.

"I have no fear, and I want to dispel the fear that may exist," a resolute Bartlett told a packed ballroom at the Rose Hall Resort and Country Club.

He was responding to chairman of the function, Sam Reid, who had earlier expressed hope that casino gaming would not be established under Bartletts watch as minister. Reid, who is principal of Farm All-Age School in Green Pond, St James, said such a move would result in the moral decay of the nation and further propel the all pervasive get-rich- quick mentality.

But Bartlett maintained that, as pointed out by Prime Minister Bruce Golding, casino gaming was intended only as a part of the tourism product offering and would represent no more than 15 per cent of the total experience.

"The policy of including casino gaming as an input in the tourism experience in Jamaica is not intended to become a practice of every Jamaican," said Bartlett. "The PM has made the point that gaming and casino would be no more than 15 per cent of the total experience."

Bartlett said the first such entity, which the prime minister has mandated to be a minimum 1,000 rooms at a minimal investment of US$1.5 billion, is soon to be established in Montego Bay, regarded as the islands tourism capital.

"The first one we are looking at, which the PM announced, is likely to be in Montego Bay, Rose Hall near here," Bartlett explained. The developers, he added, had estimated the project to generate $13 billion annually and employ some 12,000 people.

Bartlett said the development would consist of a marina, an entertainment complex for high-class cabaret shows and musical productions, and fine dining.

"Its an opportunity for more employment," he added, explaining that in addition to direct tourism jobs, the project would result in additional employment in the transport and other associated sectors.

Casino gambling, he maintained, was an option the Government was committed to providing for its visitors. "Casino gambling is not for every Tom, Mary, Dick and Harry," declared Bartlett. "It is for those who come here and want to enjoy this option.""

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