Former administration approved incentive package for casino gambling

Former Prime Minister Tillman Thomas may have openly objected, but his administration had approved an incentive package for Royal Caribbean Cruise lines that would have seen casino gambling onboard the ships while docked in Grenada at the cruise ship terminal.

The issue of establishing a casino as additional entertainment to the island’s tourist attractions has being an ongoing debate, with Thomas openly objecting to such activity which he described in many interviews as responsible for encouraging many social problems such as organized crime, family violence and prostitution.

“I know there was a proposal but I don’t think we ever gave any approval, but call Dr George Vincent, the former tourism minister, he should be able to tell you more,” Thomas said on Monday when questioned about the 14 May 2012 cabinet decision that granted the incentive package.

Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Information Senator Winston Garraway confirmed that a Cabinet documents dated Monday 14 May 2012 showed that the Thomas administration considered an ex-agenda submission and granted approval for an incentive package that will allow for Royal Caribbean cruise lines ships to allow shops and casinos to operate while in Port.

“It’s a package to introduce a summer programme starting 2013 providing for the shops and casino to be open when in Port St George’s. It also provides for a reduction in the head tax by 50% if the ships are to call for two years and remain for 12 hours each time,” he said.

Traditionally, shops aboard cruise lines are closed once in Port, and its felt by some tourism stakeholders that allowing the shops to open will only result in less cruise ship money left on the island. “So when the shops are open it will be the same as if sailing in the open seas, the passengers may not even want to come out and visit the island, thereby resulting in less money remaining the island. Reduced island tours, reduced island shopping, and that will be reduced money here,” said the taxi drivers, who do not wish to be named.

A representative from George F Huggins — the agent for Royal Caribbean Cruise lines, said they were not aware of any incentive package offer to the cruise lines, but an official from the Ports Authority confirmed that negotiations were being held, but was not aware of the present status.

Governor-General Sir Carlyle, in presenting the Throne Speech during the recent ceremonial open of the Ninth Parliament, says Government will give “due consideration” toward introducing Casino gambling on the island as a major revenue enhancing measure and at the same time to add to the tourists entertainment on the island.

By Linda Straker

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