Legalized Gambling illegal to Guyanese
By Imran Khan
Freedom is not worth having if it does not connote freedom to err. It passes my comprehension how human beings, be they ever so experienced and able, can delight in depriving other human beings of that precious right – Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi
Following comments made by President Bharrat Jagdeo at the formal opening of the Princess Casino there has been a reheating of the debate on the virtues of casino/gambling legislation in Guyana. The President finds himself in some difficulty with regard to what appears to be an about face on the issue given his most recent comments and has been copping some criticism.
There is merit in most of the criticisms I have seen, however I have found that a narrow view is being mostly propagated (perhaps for political and other convenience) when there is a critical larger issue which needs to be ventilated.
The point of conditional and thus discriminatory casino/gambling legislation, in my opinion, takes a U-Turn from basic human equality – an essential facet of life now, apparently, taken much for granted to the point where it is treated with scant regard by even our National Assembly.
In my mind the issue is a simple one which can be a sorted through by asking a basic question. “How can an individual – regardless of who he or she is – have a legally protected right to partake in an activity in MY country which legally I, as a citizen of said country, am debarred from participating in?”
I am not a gambler and I may never visit a casino in Guyana or anywhere else, however I take offense to any law which prevents me from participating in an activity which foreigners are allowed to freely partake in. There can be no moral justification of it in what we all consider – perhaps to varying degrees – to be a democracy. The freedom of choice has been withdrawn from locals while foreigners have that option.
I have agonized over this to find some way of accepting that it can be. I am unable to find even an iota of sense or good judgment in it.
My view is that gambling should either be made legal and permissible for all in Guyana (whether Guyanese or not) or it should be an illegal activity for all. Legislation which discriminates on the basis of nationality reverses hundreds of years of social advancement.
It cannot be legal for some and illegal for others. Surely we have not forgotten times when there were restaurants for some, washrooms for some and when the front of the bus was only for some among other discriminatory practices.
The contention that government should allow vices for foreigners in our land whilst ‘protecting’ its citizenry from these vices is a flagrantly dangerous one as it is grounded in false logic and flawed thinking.
It is, in fact, the bedrock of hypocrisy.
The legislation as it now stands allows a loophole which defeats the presumed intention of the law. A local can very well enter and partake in the activities of the casino if they are a guest of the hotel. Therefore there is no real protection of the citizenry against the vice. It is in fact a worsening of the vice.
Whereupon a Guyanese wishing to gamble could have just walked into the casino and so do, they now have to expend additional financial resources to book a room to qualify themselves to gamble. For persons who are intent on gambling this is not a deterrent, it is a mere inconvenience. Addicts will find a way of overcoming the hurdles and the current design of the law aids them in so doing.
Also for government to take the role of – based on the construct and operations of our Parliament – unilaterally determine what is good and what is not for citizenry and enshrine same in law is to set a scandalously treacherous precedent – the perils of which, through unkind experience, I am sure most are all only too familiar with.
What next? Exclusive dining options for foreigners? Special airport transportation services only for foreigners?
The precedent has been set.