It is very important that Bermudians research the pros and cons of organised gambling.

The government has established a commitee to look into the matter but we should not not rely solely on its report.

I have been involved in researching this subject for more than 30 years. I feel even stronger now that gambling will not be good for our small island home. It will only benefit the owners, some of whom we will never know. So I urge the young, recently elected politicians on both sides of the isle to do their research before they vote. If they get to vote.

The President of the Chamber of Commerce is on record supporting a casino in Hamilton, and so are some of our prominent citizenry. They say it will help the shops and restaurants in the city. Their comments tell me they either do not know what they are talking about or there is another motive.

Casinos and pokies do not help retail shops; in fact, the opposite is true. Casinos suck the money out of the community into the pockets of the owners of the casinos. Money that used to buy children's clothing and household goods suddenly goes to the casino. That money never, to any appreciable degree, will circulate in the community again. The result is that many firms have to go out of business. There are many examples of this happening, the closest being Atlantic City, where many businesses have gone under as a result of casinos. What used to be the commercial street is like a ghost town.

There is much more to be said about why Bermuda should not have legalised gambling. However I will conclude with the following observations, drawing extensively from 'Probe Ministries' by Kerby Anderson, a research organisation that has been tracking the evils of gambling for a long time. Their report is based on gambling in the United States.

Legalised gambling is bad social policy. At a time when Gamblers Anonymous estimates that there are at least 12 million compulsive gamblers, it doesn't make a lot of sense to have the state promoting gambling. State sponsorship makes it harder, not easier, for the compulsive gambler to reform. Since about 96 per cent of those gamblers began gambling before the age of 14, we should especially be concerned about the message such a policy would send to young people.

Uncollected debts

The economic costs that gamblers themselves incur are significant. Consider just the issue of uncollected debts, often running into tens of thousands of dollars. And the numbers pale in comparison to the social costs that surface because of family neglect, embezzlement, theft, and involvement in organised crime. Studies also indicate that gambling increases when economic times are uncertain and people are concerned about their future.

The social impact of legalised gambling is often hidden from the citizens who decide to participate. But later these costs show up in the shattered lives of individuals and their families. No one knows the social costs of gambling or how many players will become addicted... When sanctioned by the state, the state is experimenting with the minds of the people on a massive scale.

Legalised gambling is also bad Government policy. Government should promote public virtue, not seduce its citizens to gamble in state-sponsored vice. Government is supposed to be a minister of God, according to Romans 13, but its moral stance is compromised when it enters into a gambling enterprise.

Citizens would be outraged if their Government began enticing its citizens to engage in potentially destructive behaviour (like taking drugs). But those same citizens see no contradiction when Government legalises and even promotes gambling. Instead of being a positive moral force in society, government contributes to the corruption of society.

Again, I know our churches will take a strong stance against legalised gambling. I urge all Bermudians to join them and resist with all your might this menace that some people are trying to bring to our country. I urge the politicians, no matter their party affiliation, to think seriously about the future of our children, and all of Bermuda's families, and join their churches and resist legalising gambling in our beloved Bermuda.

In the same way that the people of Bermuda rejected franchises, we must even more fervently reject organised gambling.

Quinton Edness is a former deputy premier in the UBP.