Posted by: Ms Morris | July 15, 2009

Gaming in Bermuda

On Friday past the premier tried to pull a fast one on the House of Assembly by sneaking the gaming bill through. The bill was ultimately defeated and while part of me thinks serves him right for his manipulation of the legislature, I’m actually for gaming for tourists.

Mr. Starling started a poll on gaming on the now defunt PM site which resulted in a split decision but then the whole mess with the Uighurs came up and attention changed. So I’m bringing the topic up again to see what everyone else thinks. And I’m calling you out Mr. Starling, you promised me a response so let’s have it. 🙂


  1. The following is my post from the PM site:

    Now I voted for gaming…

    But let me clarify what I was voting for. Cause Jon I think you and I have two different pictures in mind. I do agree with the principle of your argument however, although to varying degrees.

    I am thinking about our present situation as well as future trends. I am not against cruise ships having their casinos open between 10pm and 5,6am. If they remain closed between 5.6am to 10pm. With the way we produce the Bermuda project what is there really to do after 10pm besides hang in the bar? Not all tourists hang out in bars nor do all tourists gamble. If tourists have enough income to throw away on machines then let them. They know what they’re spend on trinkets and clpthes based on the price of the items in the stores. Not everyone is good at poker or likes putting money in a machine. If the casinos are not in operation during the main business hours and tourists are the only ones with access to these same casinos then I would vote for gambling.

    To me the two most important factors are the the Bermudian people and the Bermuda tourism product. Right now we’re in an economic downturn and everyone is hurting. We can only deal with so much strain on the two pillars of our economy and we need to ensure that we have cruise ships for St. Georges and Hamilton. We need that right now. We also need to work on improving and diversifying our tourism product so every tourist that comes for eco-tourism, cultural tourism, religious tourism, by boat or by plane have truly memorable experiences that make them want to come again. This is something we can work on now for the future.

  2. LOL – I’d thought you’d forgotten! I got distracted by other pressing issues which is why I didn’t respond. Gimme a couple hours, got some errands to run, LOL!

  3. I’ve been quite looking forward to this debate actually. Can’t let you sneak away from it. Lolol!!

  4. I am on the fence here. I doubt things could get much more corrupt here so gaming would just be another source of income for Brown. That is my cynical view.

    My level headed look, is that gaming is not going to be a life preserver for our tourism industry. Our standards overall on this island need to improve, from the service, to the cleanliness, to the amenities of the resorts. While allowing it on the ships is a ‘safe’ way to introduce it, I see that as a sneaky way to get the ball rolling. The hotels would have to lobby furiously to get the same, and once the hotels have it, fuggeddaboudit.

    And don’t believe for a second there are not smaller cruise lines out there that could be enticed here. That there are not full time ships in Hamilton and ST Geo is BS, there may need to be some concessions to get the smaller players in the cruise industry here, but gaming is not the only one.

    I would ‘wager’ that if the government dissolved the corporations, all of a sudden there would be plenty of ships along side Front St. and Dr. Brown would be touting himself as the saviour of the economy.

    man I am starting to get really pessimistic. please take it all with a grain of salt.

  5. Not a fan of gaming. Just because it’s a very effective way of separating the mathematically-challenged from their money. It’s not bad in and of itself, but in today’s quick-fix society, it’s a menace. People who gamble are too stupid or naive to see what the end result is.

    The problem we would have is that we would end up supporting the destructive habit of locals with gambling addictions, like we already do with this and other addictions. No sense in adding fuel to that fire.

  6. I personally don’t enjoy gambling, so I wouldn’t do it anyway if it were legal, but I think there are a number of reasons why I would support legalising gambling in Bermuda, with a number of caveats.

    I fear that this is such a broad topic that if you let me get rambling I’ll lose myself, so I’m going to start my first ever post on this awesome new site by laying out a skeleton of issues that I think we’ll all touch on:

    1) The extent of gambling in Bermuda we would endorse. Are we going to spend the whole time talking about cruise ship gambling during the night-time hours, or will this develop into a broader discussion of the merits/drawbacks of gambling in general?

    2) The libertarian objection to preventing adults from participating in activities of their choosing, no matter how potentially harmful to themselves. Do we endorse paternalistic bans, not only to protect individuals but also their loved ones and the community at large from themselves? Or do we commit resources to education (say, each casino must display near every table a large poster that states, in no uncertain terms, that the odds are very much in the house’s favour) and treatment (gambler’s anonymous) instead?

    3) The potential utilitarian benefits and drawbacks of an industry based on gambling. The state-run lottery is, in my opinion, a fantastic way of generating funds for more controversial civic projects, like sponsoring the arts. Also, would provision of a gambling product increase tourist traffic? Would they be the kinds of tourists who would provide a net benefit to the island? I disagree with the assertion that just because there is gambling closer to home (say, Atlantic City) that he presence of casinos here would not be a draw, as tourists consider the entire package when making decisions about where to travel. I also don’t buy the argument that the presence of a gambling industry is necessarily tied with an increased likelihood of government corruption.

    At the end of the day, hopefully all of these discussions will distill down to the very un-simple questions “Would Bermuda be better off if we legalized gambling?”

  7. I don’t really support gambling for locals either but what about tourists? Do you think they should be allowed? I feel if you’re on vacation and have money to throw away, knock yourself out. I know it’s sucks for locals but think of it as an excuse to to Vegas or Atlantic City.

  8. Gaming is a very complex industry. It is highly unlikely that there would be sufficient draw to attract tourists for gaming. The transportation hurdle alone knocks us out of contention. We simply can’t compete with the busloads of retirees that are trucked in and out of Atlantic City daily. Even with that, most places are losing money now.

    Add to that the need for inexpensive electricity, and the project is dead in the water.

  9. My mother had this idea ages ago and I thought it was pretty cool, tell me what you think.

    IF (emphasis on the IF) gambling was legalised for tourists we could build a casino on one of the smaller islands. That way you can control it to ensure only tourists can go. Of course the money would go to gov’t cofferss for social programs and maybe debt reduction. (I was stunned to see our national debt had more than doubled, how did I miss that?Mer.)

  10. I haven’t really thought through all the implications of having an industry that is available to tourists only and which excludes locals, but I have a suspicion it would be very, very unpopular.

    Aside from the practical issues of how one identifies oneself as a tourist and the extent to which locals would go to circumvent this security, why would we allow our guests to do something that we are not prepared to endorse by allowing our citizens to do as well? Would this little island casino also allow drug use and prostitution? Do we think less of our visitors then we do ourselves, and thus are not willing to protect them from themselves, or do we think more of them and do not trust our fellow Bermudians to be responsible? Are we saying that we do not want to endure the effects on the community of legalised gambling, but are perfectly willing to send people back to their homes and have those effects manifested there?

    I just don’t think we’d be able to handle separate laws for visitors and locals.

  11. Even when you use the gaming proceeds for good, as in the Foxwoods model, this approach is fraught with difficulty.

    Firstly, all of the offshore islands are protected from further development.

    Secondly, the margins are pretty tight, even more so here. Your ROI will be at least 20 years, but likely more.

    Thirdly, the restrictive policy on locals is unworkable. Staff will gamble, they will find ways around the checks for themselves and their friends.

    Fourthly, gambling is not a “clean” business. There’s too many shady dealings associated with it.

    The whole development would be an expensive boondoggle.

  12. Think the issue is more fundamental; think gaming is inconsistent with the product Bermuda is selling in the tourism market.

    Bermuda has never appealed to the Atlantic City bus crowd; it cannot compete with Puerto Rico, Nassau and other destinations that have a far broader range of activities, especially nightlife, for a far broader range of budgets.

    The more that the tourism effort moves off-strategy, the greater the risk that the target market looks for other destinations. And as Bermuda dilutes its competitive advantage, it ends up positioning itself against other destinations much better equipped to attract a different market segment.

    Think Bermuda sells exclusivity, with a British flavor. Mega-ships and gaming detract from that product. And agree Let’s point above, executing that strategy calls for very high service levels (at very high pricing); not clear that element has been preserved.

  13. […] bloggers The Devil Island, 21 Square and Bermuda Jewel weigh in on different political issues that are on their minds. Cancel this […]

  14. Welcome T Leitch. Thanks for contributing.

    1. Conversation here can go as broad as you like. Dive right in. There are benefits and drawbacks with gambling but IMO the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.

    2. Government’s are kind of like parents in the sense that they provide rules for people to follow. The laws are for our general protection and I suppose for some, depending on the situation, to protect them from their self. Balance can definitely be struck between education and treatment if gambling was opened to the public. I just don’t want that for the country though. In London there are multiple spots in each town for gambling. I doubt that would happen in Bermy but still.

    3. The state run lotteries and such are the things that make me hesitate about localised gambling. This is where I think it becomes problematic for some. There’s no way to tell for sure if gambling would improve our tourism numbers but at least it would give people something to do. I’m not entirely impressed with Bermuda’s tourism product. I’m with you in believing that a casino can be operated without corruption. Checks and balances. Checks and balances.

  15. Never thought about that option beofore Ms. Morris. Think that would be an excellent option not only for the reasons stated above by yourself, but also for the tourists as it creates more of an exotic feel.

    As for gambling itself, I am not opposed to it, but yet again I am still very interested in reviewing the study that has been commissioned by the Govt. At the same time I don’t believe that BDA should expect that a casino or two would alleviate our financial woes and sustainability.

    As mentioned the national debt has soared by approximately $500mn since the 2004/5 budget (as per Mr. Lister’s comments last Friday). Soon it will be well above $1bn with greater interest payments needed. As we are already digging into the “sinking fund” (an apt name I believe given current circumstances) BDA needs the two main pillars of our economy to be working smoothly and efficiently. I say that because it appears that some indiduals believe that a casino or gambling will bring in the supplementary $$$ that would and is being lost due to fleeing IB companies and fewer applications for incorporations. That is simply untrue. IB is a year round business while we are a seasonal tourist destination. The myth that a casino would attract tourists year round is simply a myth. Unfortunately we do not have the climate as the Bahamas and their Atlantis Resort.

    Before any casino or gambling institution is allowed, the BDA Govt must ensure that the appropriate legislation and enforcement is in place to avoid any potential damage to BDA’s business reputation. For gambling and casinos are synonymous with crime and money laundering. The emergence of either and the subsequent reporting to the international community of such crimes taking place can cause irreparable damage to BDA’s reputation of being a place to conduct busines under strict regulations and therefore seriously cause greater damage to our economy and way of life.

  16. We already have ‘legalised gaming’ in the form of bingo and Crown and Anchor as well as the various outlets where people can wager on overseas horse races, for example. Have yet to see an argument that defends these activities yet banishes events like the Poker Tour.

    I don’t think it’s fair or reasonable to pass legislation allowing visitors to gamble in any new casinos while denying locals from doing likewise. It’s a bit like smoking – everyone knows it’s potentially dangerous but nobody’s raring to ban the sale of cigarettes or cigars.

    If there’s an opportunity to raise revenues, and where tourism dollars are increased as well, properly-thought legislation should be introduced. I agree that casino gambling is nowhere near a panacea, and loading up on tacky slot machines isn’t going to bring in the kind of customers that will spend lots of dollars here, but maybe some high-end gambling venues and the capacity to host big-time events (even on TV) could be promising.

    Of course the immediate declaration should be that the majority of the profits be dedicated to sports and the arts (and any other worthy ventures) – none of the current profit-making gambling ventures legal here can claim this.

  17. Personally I haven’t got a problem with gaming, if one wants to throw their money away then thats up to them. As a bit of fun I don’t see what the problem with it is, the problems only arrise when people become addicted, when people begin to see it as more than just a game and that is what Bermuda has to decide if it wants to deal with.

    I highly doubt that the key to revitalising tourism here is the legalisation of gaming. It’s not going to bring in huge numbers of new tourists just because they can gamble on their boats. On the other hand, if it’s what the tourists want…

    There is a lot that needs to be improved with Bermuda tourism, legalising gaming is not the quick fix that makes everything better.

  18. Why do I get the feeling that we might be being screwed?

    Please correct me if I have this wrong in terms of ‘the facts’.

    1) I have been on a number of cruises lines over the years, both the Caribbean and other areas of the world.
    2) I have never seen a ship casino open for business whilst docked, or sailing whilst in the waters of that country. (The 10 mile out rule or whatever the distance is).

    Are being told by our current cruise lines that ‘unless we allow gambling we will not return’?

    If we are, then (a) why us? and/or (b) presume this will apply to every other cruise line and every other port of call across the world.

    If cruising to BDA is not profitable, then I am sure the cruise lines will (a) adjust their prices to the extent the market will permit (b) find other ways to generate profits (c) deploy their ships elsewhere.

    Is the profit from gambling such that it offsets the fuel costs of sailing to the next port?

    At a time when Royal Caribbean is saying that its income from gambling has nose dived, I can’t believe that it applies only to them. Others must be affected.

    So – whilst I am not sure who is trying to screw us – (a) cruise line, (b) those who stand to make money from it in BDA, or a comination of the two – it doesn’t add up.

  19. you are seeing the light there Martin.

  20. If Bermuda is looking at gambling from a revenue generating point of view rather than a tourist draw, Online gambling is the way to go. It is currently a $12 billion dollar a year industry and the gambling world is constantly looking for new reliable jurisdictions to set up their businesses for extra capacity. If Bermuda was able to license on-line gaming companies and provide all the IT and banking services that are required to support this, the coffers would be full to the brim.

    Bermuda would be generate revenue from the licensing, the company formations , the IT services required to support the online presence and banks for the ecommerce processing requirements. There is also a revenue taxation model that can be applied here and this is already widely accepted by the industry.

    We only need to look at the success of jurisdictions such as Curacao, Malta, Alderney, and the UK (before they became to greedy). All are jurisdictions that have over taken Bermuda as ecommerce offshore centers.

    This way Bermuda could benefit from the revenue and none of the negatives associated with physical casinos

  21. Still has Faith…

    I guess that opens the discussion wider than the original brief, i.e. gambling for tourists.

    That said, I somehow think granting it would be the thin edge of the wedge so to speak, and the next step would be gambling on island. I suspect the uproar from that would be a difficult one to contain politically.

    In so far as on-line is concerned, I have to admit it seems almost a nonesense to think that Bermudians/expats are certainly gambling on-line and we are not benefiting, particularly as no doubt the Govt benefits today from the gambling that is allowed here viz horses, dogs et al.

    Almost forgot church bingo there!!

  22. Faith, that sounds truly interesting.

    I was more thinking along the lines of tourism and gambling but I like the whole online gaming thing. Do you think ecommerce could be a possible contender for a third leg to Bermuda’s economy. I’ve never been comfortable with just the two that we have.

  23. Absolutely, if Bermuda positions itself correctly. Back in 1999 the island tried quite hard to push itself as an ecommerce destination. Companies like Promisant were formed and special acts of parliament were granted to help companies establish themselves in Bermuda for the purpose ecommerce. Unfortunately after the bubble burst companies like Promisant went out of business and the impituse was lost.

    As things stand now Bermuda is extremely well placed to attract on-line gaming business. We are now white listed, our IT and communications infrastructure is strong and we have established banking systems in place to support ecommerce processing. Also when you compare Bermuda as a location compared to alternatives in our jurisdiction (Costa Rica, Belize, Antigua), Bermuda becomes an even greater proposition. All we need to move forward is the legislation.

    Naturally there will be people opposed to gambling of any sorts, but if the right infrastructure was put in place to monitor and audit the revenue generated, to ensure that the funds were funneled into low income housing, care for the elderly, social security etc, then Bermuda should benefit greatly.

  24. gaming should be allowed for all including bermudians…..

    gaming should be completely government controlled..with three gaming centers ..dockyard…hamilton n stgeorges

    all monies earned from gaming goes directly to the the bermudian people for various real hands up programmes to help the people in various and diverse areas.

    this is the only way gaming should be allowed to exist in bermuda.

  25. As a tourist I would caution you aginst have major casinos in Bermuda. I gambled in Bermuda when the machines were in just about every bar and it was fun BUT having a real casino can be dangerous to your local eateries and bars.

    I say this because all casino hotels will do everything they can to kee you from leaving the property to visit other establishments as they want all of your money.

    Case in point, I went to Paradise Island and stayed at the Atlantis itself. beautiful property but when I was there one night all I wanted to do was to have a few drinks under the stars. Unfortunately after 7:00pm or so they closed down the outside bar to force everyone into the casino to gamble or drink which they hope will lead to your giving away your money.

    The biggest point is THEY WANT YOUR MONEY and will do whatever they can to keep it.

  26. It also took me a long time to realise that there were no clocks in casinos too.

    Simple – but effective.

  27. Lolol. I knew about the clocks in casinos. Effective is right, the sneaky buggers.

    I do like the idea of online gambling. It’s out there now and anyone with a computer and credit card has access to it. I don’t think it will affect Bermudians negatively as it’s been readily available all this time.

    Open question to everyone. Party politics aside, is online gambling a business that Bermuda should give serious consideration getting into?

    AND MR STARLING IM STILL WAITING!!! Me tinks you avoiding de topic…:p

  28. Absolutely. It seems a nonsence that people are gambling this way, and the Island doesn’t benefit.

    I suspect party politics will still get in the way, despite “what the eye doesn’t see…etc”.

  29. Not to mention that ATMs are conveniently placed nearby…

  30. …..and the drinks are usually free (LV).

  31. Tryangle, what are your thoughts on ecommerce gambling?

  32. Great idea, but will this work over the long run?

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