Samoa’s Catholic Church Backs Proposed Casinos

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Samoa’s Catholic Church Backs Proposed Casinos Priest feels casino employment may benefit country

By Niccola Hazelman-Siona

APIA, Samoa (Samoa Observer, March 12, 2013) – The Catholic Church in Samoa appears to have had a change of heart about casinos.

As the second biggest denomination in the country, the spokesperson for the Church, Father Ioane Ono says the church is also not too concerned about the casinos opening on Sundays.

Gambling, says Father Ioane, is optional. It is a matter of a person’s choice.

"There is no specific teaching of the [Catholic] church with regards to gambling," says Father Ioane. "There are other forms of gambling which members of the church use for fundraising purposes like bingo for instance.

"As far as we’re concerned, there are no teachings of the Catholic Church against gambling. There is no specific teaching that the Catholic Church is against gambling."

Father Ioane’s position completely contradicts that of the National Council of Churches (NCC), a body that is headed by senior Catholic Deacon Kasiano Le’aupepe.

Asked for his views last year, Deacon Le’aupepe condemned the government’s decision.

"The love of money and the casinos will only drive people further into poverty," he warned. "People will start to save money to play in the casinos instead of feeding their families.

"The addiction will become too much; it will result in crime as people start stealing to fuel their addiction. Gambling opens the door to the influx of outsiders who have no fear for God."

Father Ioane sees things differently. He expresses that the Catholic Church is very much in support of the benefits of the casinos.

"Based on what the government is saying that no locals will be allowed to gamble inside these casinos, in that sense it is good for the country, our economy," he says.

As for the employment of locals?

"That is something good, it will create employment for our people, and it is very hard to say what life will be life for Samoa because we have never experienced having a casino before."

Asked about casinos opening on Sunday, Father Ioane says that personally, he had no problems with it. He says the church on Sunday is a day of "celebration."

"For Catholics or any Christian for that matter, Sunday is a day of rest, a day of giving thanks and praise to the Lord. It is also a day of joy and celebration because for the Catholic Church, Sunday is the day of resurrection of Jesus."

Father Ioane compared working in a casino on Sunday to other service sectors in the country.

"To work in a casino would be like any other job," he says. "For example, in hospitals the doctors and nurses work even on Sundays. So if we are to be strict about working on Sundays, then hospitals should also close on Sundays.

"EPC, SWA, Police, Fire Fighters, all those people are working on Sunday as well so it is very hard to really comment on the issue of casinos on Sunday.

"Casinos opening on Sunday would not really affect the village or community I think," said Father Ioane "the rooms are closed off, I would imagine so all those that play in casino are not really bothering anyone.

"Personally it is not a problem but I think that our church leaders need to sit down with government and work out what is best for our people.

"We can only speculate at the moment about the dangers of casinos because it is not yet a reality for us and we can only hope for the best."

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