January 14, 2014

Bermuda readies casino gaming legislation

The Bermuda government is expected to legalise casino gaming for the first time, according to Shawn Crockwell, Bermuda Tourism Minister. Gaming will be used as an anchor to lift the hospitality industry, with casinos only permitted in existing or new hotels, rather than standalone facilities.

Speaking at a press conference last week, the Minister said that the Government would begin a public education program later this month to outline its “vision, goals, objectives and measurable outcomes associated with casino gaming.” He remarked that the Government has “worked diligently” in order to establish the gaming industry should be operated on the island.

CrockwellA public referendum previously announced to determine the outcome of casinos has been dropped by the Government, claiming that the Opposition Labour Party had threatened to undermine the process. Instead, the measure will now go through Parliament and a forum would be established for the public to provide feedback on the subject and still have a voice throughout the process.

“It is paramount that the Government now engages the public with salient information concerning what we are proposing and all of the main issues surrounding the industry,” informed Crockwell. “We want to disseminate the facts and hear everyone’s view on the issue.”

A series of public consultation meetings and programs will commence on 27th January. Topics will include the integrated resort model, favoured by the Government; infrastructure and job creation; tourism and hospitality; and the social impact of legalised gaming. A dedicated website will launch for the public to voice their opinion and six town hall meetings have been lined up next month.

“We will be working with numerous entities to ensure the information provided is timely and accurate,” continued Crockwell. “We are also confident the majority of Bermudians support the introduction of casino-style gaming. This is supported by recent polling results which suggest that approximately 70 percent of Bermudians favour legalisation of gaming in Bermuda.”

Travel and tourism to Bermuda are showing signs of growth and government date shows 84 percent of visitors arrive from the US. The introduction of cruise ship casinos last year increased the number of ships porting on Bermuda shores. Integrated resorts that offer casinos would appeal to customers from the US, as well as the rest of the world.

“Casino gaming is not a panacea,” concluded Crockwell, “but a much needed amenity for our tourism product. We have a wonderful opportunity to set the example by working together to implement the best holistic casino gaming model this world has seen. We must augment our tourism offerings and we must enhance our tourism infrastructure.”

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