Bermuda’s opposition leader has put that territory’s Premier to task over what he sees as the lack of progress in regulating gaming on the island.
Marc Bean put his views forward on the territory’s Bernews outlet, saying the Government has made no movement on gaming regulation five months into its term. Mr Bean, whose Progressive Labour Party (PLP) supports a public referendum on the issue, said it was crucial that a referendum on gaming be held in Bermuda sooner rather than later.
“Gaming will represent a tremendous shift in our tourism business model and brings with it numerous challenges and opportunities,” he said. “The PLP supports a referendum, the machinery is in place to have a referendum, the premier said the money is in the budget for a referendum, and the Gaming Referenda Act has already been written.”
Bermuda’s Premier Craig Cannonier responded to Mr Bean’s critique by reiterating his Government’s commitment for a referendum on gaming to be held, but that further work needed to be done. Mr Cannonier said that a framework for a gaming industry in the British Overseas territory was a significant issue that the Government was continuing to look at.
“I don’t want to put an exact date on (the referendum), because again this is a collaborative effort we need to be talking to PLP, and sometimes that can lengthen out the process,” he said. “But again it is our endeavour to bring it before the House this session… We believe it needs to go to referendum.”
A study done by the US-based Innovation Group undertaken under the previous Government of Bermuda stated that gaming regulation could create up to 3,000 jobs and up to $146 million a year to Bermuda’s economy. This could possibly help the island territory curb its gradually rising unemployment rate which, according to the BBC, currently exceeds eight per cent, a three and a half per cent increase in four years. The $146 million would also be a significant injection into a territory of roughly 64,700 inhabitants.
The potential economic benefits of gaming regulation in Bermuda were also cited by Mr Bean in his calls to hold a public referendum. “We have the Breakaway that has just arrived in Bermuda with 3,500 people, combined with 1,500 – 2,000 passengers on another cruise ship,” he said. “With 5,000 people visiting Bermuda, what is it truly there for them to do? Gaming has been identified as one of the amenities which can be provided to our guests.”
If the results of the Innovation Group study are correct, the regulation of gaming in Bermuda would also fulfil one of the Premier’s major election promises in one hit. Mr Cannonier pledged that his Government would help create 2,000 new jobs on the island during the course of the new parliament.
Some members of Bermuda’s religious community, however, do not wish for those jobs to be created by a gaming industry. A number of religious groups have joined forces the ‘United to Change’ group, which opposes any regulation of gaming in the territory.