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Column 030705 Thompson

Monday, March 7, 2005

 

Mexican casino opponents use delaying tactics

 

By Barnard R. Thompson

 

Just when it looked as if the Tourism Committee of the Mexican Chamber of Deputies would observe its March 9, 2005, self-set deadline for yet more studies on casino gaming in Mexico, it seems that those opposed to casinos have once again delayed the so-called process.

 

As a consequence, the probability is that the interminable casino proposal will not reach the floor in Congress during this session that is scheduled to conclude on April 30.  In that case the legislation could resurface during the next regular period of Congress that begins on September 1 and ends December 15.  However that will also be when Mexico’s political parties are formally selecting their presidential candidates for the July 2006 election, and it is hard to imagine much getting done during that time, especially a vote by partisan deputies on something controversial.

 

By the end of February, with most studies in and committee work done, spokespersons for the three responsible committees (Tourism, Finance and Government) were saying that the majority of their working group members agreed that casinos should be allowed in Mexico.  In fact, the new Federal Gaming with Wagers and Raffles Law was all but ready to go to the floor for a final vote, according to reliable sources.

 

Most of the earlier proposals and plans related to casinos remain the same in the initiative.  Card games, dice, roulette, wheel of fortune and slot machines are among the 11 types of gambling activities to be authorized if the legislation passes as is.

 

The initiative also covers non-casino gaming, such as bingo and numbers parlors, horse and dog tracks, jai alai, cockfights, sports books, raffles and lotteries.  However the latest modification states that, if the casino section of the bill passes, slot machines will only be allowed in licensed casinos, at horse and greyhound racetracks, and in jai alai frontons.

 

But leaders of the campaign against casinos have once again been able to slowdown the democratic representative process, jumping in this time by rallying support for a further study.  This as they continue their cause in an almost Orwellian manner: “The more you [think you] are in the right the more natural that everyone else should be bullied into thinking likewise.”

 

This as they present casinos as Mexico’s public enemy number one, versus advocates who claim that casinos will cure the nation’s economic woes.  Who cares that neither is right?

 

Political party coordinators in the Chamber of Deputies, on March 4, jointly accepted a request by the group of intellectuals, academics and tourism entrepreneurs who have been the most insistent and vociferous leaders in the fight against casinos.  That request calls for the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) to do one more study on the viability of casinos in Mexico.

 

According to Baja California Sur hotelier and developer Eduardo Sánchez Navarro, one of the self-ordained leaders of the anti-casino grouping, the UNAM study should be ready by September.  But regardless of what Sánchez and his associates say, and whether one favors casinos in Mexico or not, the call for another study must be seen for what it is — a delaying tactic.

 

Conversely, Francisco López Mena, the chairman of the Tourism Committee in the Chamber of Deputies, argued against yet another study.  López noted that all needed studies have already been done, and he presented a list of 40 reports and analyses that were used by deputies who now favor the casino proposal.  As such, committee leaders in the Chamber want the initiative to move forward now — which at this point seems unlikely.

 

Getting back to the opponents, their positions and arguments might be best synopsized in an excerpt from an op-ed column (“Casinos and the Ecology of Crime”) by poet and social critic Gabriel Zaid that ran in the Mexico City daily Reforma on January 30.

 

“It’s natural for families, friends and companions of those who like to gamble to be worried.  The possible consequences (addictions, bankruptcies, crime, family violence, suicide) are terrible.  But it would be excessive to outlaw all gaming.  Casinos are something else, which must be prohibited in a country like Mexico.  In the first place due to the huge cost of controlling the criminal fauna that come with them.  And because they support the degradation of political life: the corruption of legislators, parties, judges, police, local and tax officials, lobbyists, journalists.  Casinos favor the ecology of crime, [and] they help to suffocate the still incipient development of a State of law,” wrote Zaid.

 

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Barnard Thompson is Editor of MexiData.info. He can be reached via e-mail at mexidata@ix.netcom.com.