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Major Churches Neutral on Gaming in Bermuda

The long held debate over a referendum to legalise live gaming in the UK-administered Caribbean territory of Bermuda continues to go on without a date having yet been set.

Both of the island’s major political parties have voiced their support for gaming legalisation and regulation, given the potential economic benefits it could yield for Bermuda and its 64,000 plus people. Opposition to gaming reform has been voiced loudly by a number of religious groups on the island, which believe gaming legalisation would have negative effects on some of Bermuda’s people.

While some religious groups in Bermuda have adopted that stance, two of the territory’s three largest churches have revealed that they are taking a neutral stance on the issue. The announcements are set to be welcomed by those on the pro-gaming side of the argument, with only one of Bermuda’s major churches taking a definitive ‘no’ viewpoint on the legalisation of live gaming.

One of the island’s churches that has taken a neutral stance is the Catholic Church. Catholic Bishop of Hamilton (Bermuda’s capital) Robert Kurtz said that the decision to be neutral on the issue was primarily based on the direct effects the church believed gaming had on people.

“Our own position, going back to the catechism of the Church, is that gaming is not intrinsically evil,” he said. “I don’t see it as a great moral issue – I see it as an issue that requires prudence on the part of society to protect society from the possible negative effects.

 “The evil comes from the misuse of it – then it becomes a question of the prudent measures of society or legislators as to how this is regulated to protect people from the ill-effects of gaming.”

The neutral view was also adopted by Bermuda’s Anglican Church, which declined to take an official position for or against the legalisation of live gaming in the territory. That leaves the African Methodist Episcopal church, which has outlined its stance against any pro-gaming reform in the British Overseas Territory.

Despite that, the neutral stances of the Catholic and Anglican churches could still have a major effect on the gaming debate and a potential future referendum. Followers of both churches form between a third and 40 percent of Bermuda’s population, which remains relatively conservative.

While it would not mean followers would automatically vote for gaming, the neutral stance conveys a message that people should vote in the referendum based on their objective views on the issue. For the pro-gaming side, that does give greater hope of a ‘yes’ vote being put forward when a referendum is eventually held.

A previous study undertaken by the US-based Innovation Group stated that gaming regulation could create up to 3,000 jobs and up to $146 million a year to Bermuda’s economy. Such figures have been cited as a major factor behind the pro-gaming campaign’s push for a ‘yes’ vote.

Bermuda is in a strategically beneficial location for tourism, and could potentially benefit from increased tourist numbers should the ‘yes’ vote prevail. Its location between Europe and North America also creates the potential for Bermuda to host professional poker events should the result of a referendum permit live gaming on the island.

A date has not yet been set for a referendum on gaming in Bermuda, with a bill permitting the referendum set to be put forward in the territory’s parliament in the near future.

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