Sunday, March 1, 2015

Gambian dictator bans casinos, lotteries and all forms of gambling effective immediately

Sidi Sanneh 
Without notice and by the stroke of the dictator's pen, Yaya Jammeh announced moments ago on government-controlled television and relayed to us by a Gambian activist that he (Jammeh) has decided to ban casinos, lotteries and all other forms of gambling effective immediately.

The decision, guided only by the whims of a megalomaniac and a deranged dictator, came as a huge surprise to Gambians in general and to operators (both foreign and domestic) in the tourist industry.

While details of the ban are still unclear, the impact the decision might have on an industry that is already on life support, due in part to the Ebola epidemic, will be adverse.  Gambling casinos have sprouted all over the tourism areas since the inception of the industry in the 1960s and it has been inextricably linked as part of normal operations of operations.

What are foreign investors going to do when they have not been notified in time to secure their investment.  The impact of the decision on the tourism sector will be devastating.  The dictator's Finance Minister presented his 2015 Appropriations Bill only in December and no mention was made that such a major decision was in the offing.

The 2015 Budget made on mention of government's intention to ban an industry that contributes significantly to the national budget.  The immediate impact will be felt in the employment of Gambians in hotels, casinos and at the National Lottery when unemployment is already very high due to inappropriate government policies.

The banning decision will force the Finance Minister to revisit his budget figures, particularly his revenue projections, in preparation for both the bail-out negotiations with the IMF and its next mission to the Gambia later this month.

Anytime one thinks that Jammeh has finally exceeded his capacity to inflict harm to the economy or to his fellow human, he always succeeds in proving us wrong.   And as someone commented after hearing the announcement, if his decision is based on religion, he should have banned alcohol first.