Changing Samoa is more than just a gamble

Casino's will bring unprecedented change, for better or worse, to Samoa

The controversy over whether or not to build casino’s in Samoa has been put to rest with the passing of the Casino and Gambling Act and the formation of a new agency by the HRPP-led government.

Though it has been years in the making many, including religious and social activist groups have been begging the government through formal letters and silent protests to halt the Act. But the pleas of the people have fallen on the deaf ears of parliament and Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi who instead have forged ahead. Tuilaepa is confident that the first casino will be built by June of 2011, an aggressive timeline that many feel was always in the works because there was no way that Tuilaepa was going to scrap his plans.

The premise? The casinos will bring in much needed revenue to assist in building sports programs. Yes, sports programs. Nevermind that the “brain-drain” continues at unprecedented rates due to the lack of a solid infrastructure, jobs are all but non-existent in both the public and private sectors and the quality of public education has been in decline since the 1980’s. But Tuilaepa is worried about sports?

Yes, Samoa has experienced some extraordinary growth in the realm of sports and that has been largely due to the influx of foreign aid from Australia, New Zealand, China and other countries who are interested in the development of Samoa’s youth programs. But to base your entire argument on one miniscule section of the population borders on the insane and is absolutely ludicrus.

Samoa’s economy has been in the crapper for decades (I guess you can argue that it has been since independence), the GDP looks more like OMG, healthcare, over taxation and an overall decline in the quality of life and your answer to the enigmatic problem is a casino?

Groups advocating to shoot down the idea cited studies in countries around the world where casino’s are legal and the relative decline those cities and governments experienced when casino’s were erected. Las Vegas might be a fun place but for the most part, the majority of the money stays in the hands of the people who built the casino’s in the first place.

Some advocates for gambling as a means to stimulate an economy will use Las Vegas as their model of success. Some might point to Indian Casinos that are popping up everywhere there are indigenous populations. But there are far more opponents than proponents in the debate from an American perspective which is a much larger scale than our poor, tiny island nation. The primary issues cited by groups who are against casino’s are of course of a social nature but here is some interesting reading about the economic impacts of gambling. Here is an additional source about how casino’s cause economic decline rather than large scale rewards.

I just don’t like the fact that Tuilaepa thinks that he can decide what is best for the people. Our independence was based on the ideal that we as a people stood against the invasive nature of big government and yet here we are just decades later, battling the same oppression from within. I firmly believe that putting a casino in our country and telling our people that they cannot gamble is a lot like building a bar inside of the Betty Ford Clinic and telling the residents that they can’t have a drink. No matter what safeguards you put in place, if a person wants something bad enough, they will find a way to circumvent the process. It’s human nature. Curiosity is part of the reason that humans remain at the top of the food chain. That and greed. Because that’s what it all boils down to. A group of bureaucrats who think that the common man needs his ideas in order to progress when all along it is the backside of the common man that has suffered the boot every time the so-called intellectual gets a hairbrained idea.

I’m against casino’s in Samoa for many reasons but the primary reason for my angst (besides the anti-Tuilaepa one that I’ve stated above) is the loss of innocence and the feeling that the paradise that was once Samoa, the one that I loved as a young man, now only exists in text books, faded pictures and fading memories.

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