The Government of Jamaica could find itself in a face-off with the local Christian community if it goes ahead with the introduction of casino gambling.
The Government has given approval for a group of international investors to establish the island’s first legal casino.
Prime Minister Bruce Golding will be making a presentation on this new venture by the Government to increase jobs and spur economic growth in the country during his presentation in the budget debate on Tuesday.
Rev Dr Patrick Allen of the West Indies Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists noted that opposition to casinos has not changed over the years. "Despite the talk of economic gains from casinos, the Church’s position has not changed and will not change," Allen stated. "The position of the Church is based on scripture and will not fluctuate based on conditions."
The Church has repeatedly expressed its opposition to casino gambling and it appears that nothing has changed.
Various denominations has openly oppose the introduction of casino gambling. According to Rev Kevin Richards of the Young Crusaders Ministries, "the country is suffering a spiritual decay and unfortunately, it is coming from the top," charged Richards.
"There are other ways that we can boost tourism without casinos." In supporting his colleagues, Pastor Garfield Paris of the Bethlehem Evangelistic Assembly, argued that casinos represented a short cut to riches and did not develop the work ethic of the population. He rejected claims that the Church was failing to speak out on other problems facing the society while targeting casinos.
"The outcry of the Church has always been put on the back burner until something happens. Casinos will carry crime and violence with them," Paris charged.
The fear is also shared by the Rev Ian Muirhead of the Upper Room Community Church: "Casinos will create more negative conditions that will add to our problems as a nation."
The church leaders echoed the cry of the Rev Roy Notice of the Mandeville New Testament Church of God who used the National Prayer Breakfast in January to urge the administration not to consider introducing casinos.
With political, business and religious leaders in the audience, Notice said Jamaica should be looking to scale down its indulgence in games of chance and instead rekindle a stronger work ethic in the country. "Why not explore the benefits of religious tourism, and why not work on making Jamaica the conference Mecca of the Caribbean?" Notice asked.