The director of Icelandair believes the government is disregarded the tax revenue it could gain from legalising casinos in Iceland.
The matter was most recently brought up last February, when Icelandair hotels introduced the idea of building a casino at Hótel Nordica, putting in a formal request with the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Industry to legalise casinos. However, the Ministry of Health, as well as the National Center of Addiction Medicine, opposed the idea, despite a few celebrity endorsements in favour of the casino. With that, the matter disappeared from the national radar.
Magnea Þórey Hjálmarsdóttir, the director of Icelandair Hotels, hasn’t forgotten. “At the same time that the government plucks 400 million ISK every year from tourists in arrival and overnight guesting taxes,” a statement she sent to the media reads in part, “it rejects a possible 700 million ISK in tax revenue from casinos.”
She argues that building a casino in Reykjavík would create 50 to 70 new jobs, and says that the Ministry of Health’s objections – that casinos contribute to gambling addiction – is “puzzling, that other nations haven’t heard of this epidemic.” However, a 2007 study conducted by the British government showed the number of gambling addicts in their country in the hundreds of thousands and rising, and casinos have been linked to contributing to gambling addiction in similar studies.
Magnea harshly criticises the government’s “tourist tax” idea, pointing out that a similar plan in Canada may have contributed to the decline in tourism to the country.
“Iceland is in stiff competition with other interesting destinations in the world,” Magnea says. “If tourists get a bad feeling about the plucking, they will go someplace else. Strange that the government doesn’t want to accept money from tourists through a new tax venue – casino operations – money that tourists gladly give away.”
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