Transport Minister's statement
Cruise ship casinos could be allowed to open in port
Cabinet will consider allowing cruise ships to keep their casinos open while in port in Bermuda, Transport Minister Derrick Burgess revealed yesterday.
He told a press conference he would take the idea back to his Cabinet colleagues after it came up during talks with executives from six major cruise lines last month.
A similar plan was rejected by MPs in July 2009, when they voted against a cruise ship gaming bill tabled in the House of Assembly by former Premier and Transport Minister Ewart Brown by 18 votes to 11.
But the One Bermuda Alliance said last night it would likely support new legislation, provided sufficient consultation took place.
Deputy Premier Mr Burgess told the media he met in Florida with officials from Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, Princess, MSC, Carnival and Regent Seven Seas cruise lines to get feedback on Bermudas 2011 cruise ship season.
He said executives raised the issue of on-board revenue, adding: Bermuda is the one of the few ports in the world where ships routinely have multiple night stays and currently the requirement is that the casinos and shops must remain closed while the ships are in port.
This has a huge effect on on-board revenue. With this in mind, it has been made clear that the on-board revenue is achieved mainly through their casinos and shops.
There was discussion on whether or not this policy could be changed. I discussed the possibility of opening the casinos. The possibility of opening the casinos in port is an option that I will explore with my Cabinet colleagues.
The Minister suggested allowing the casinos to open between the hours of 10pm and 5am could be an option and said changing the law could persuade some ships to come a day earlier to Bermuda or leave a day later.
Either of these options would increase Bermudas revenue as well as that of the ship, said Mr Burgess.
Shadow Transport Minister Shawn Crockwell told The Royal Gazette the issue of on-board gaming needed revisiting.
Back in 2009, he claimed, neither Dr Brown nor the cruise companies gave an adequate answer when asked if the current policy on gaming would mean reduced visitors to the Island.
The answer to that could have impacted on how we voted, he said. I think its prudent that we revisit that issue of gaming, especially between the hours that the Minister is suggesting.
We have to be real about what entertainment is available in Bermuda during those hours. They can come and have their dinner in the restaurants here, they can explore what entertainment is available.
That should not hurt our business in Bermuda. I think if a similar bill were to come before the House there would probably be a different outcome.
Mr Burgess said he had not talked about shops remaining open while in port with the cruise companies but that option could possibly be on the table sometime in the not so distant future.
There is always the complaint from the passengers that neither the shops in St Georges or Hamilton are open on Sundays, the Minister said. I trust that our shops will consider Sunday afternoon openings while ships are in port.
Mr Crockwell said allowing shops on-board the ships to stay open during daytime hours could put local retailers at a disadvantage and prove problematic.
He said allowing the on-board shops to open only on Sundays might be a better alternative.
The Opposition MP said Bermuda had to ensure it was attracting cruise ships but shouldnt rely on cruise visitors, since they spent so much less here than air passengers.
Former Premier Sir John Swan said the proposed change was a very typically benign way for Bermuda to approach the gaming issue and would send the wrong message to hotel visitors, who spend more on the Island than cruise visitors but wouldnt be able to enjoy the on-board casinos.
We are not prepared to address the subject of gaming, he said. We need to bite the bullet [and] go to the public with a referendum. What we should do is get on with the referendum and allow gaming here.
He claimed Government was allowing itself to be blackmailed by the cruise lines.
It looks like its all in it for them and nothing for us, added Sir John.
St George Mayor Kenneth Bascome said the Corporation of St George was likely to hold a forum on gaming early next month to get residents views.
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