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Will they or won’t they

Neverendum talk of will they or won't they hold a referendum on gaming looks like it may soon be coming to an end. Maybe. We are told that there will be a vote early next year before the next Budget.

However, this assurance comes after we were first told that we could expect one either late this summer, or early in the fall. So much I suppose for the fierce urgency of now: it will have been a year since the OBA was elected.

On the other hand, the Tourism Minister, newly responsible statutorily for lotteries (another one of those quaint, euphemistic terms for gambling) has explained that extra time is needed because Government wants to get it right: people who vote should know precisely what it is they are voting for. I should say so.

Those vital details have so far been missing from the debate under the new Government; except of course for the majority who have already made up their minds, whether for or against.

There's another theory afoot as well as to what's really going on — and, no, I am not referring to the reported and apparent division within the Cabinet over gambling, based on recent comments and past positions of various Ministers.

One theory has it that the OBA is testing the waters with the introduction last week of the Cruise Ships (Casino) Act 2013 and this will give them an opportunity to gauge public reaction on and off the Hill. It is after all a makeover of the Bill former Premier and Tourism Minister Dr. Ewart Brown tried to pilot through the Legislature a few years back, unsuccessfully.

This one will allow cruise ships to run their casinos from nine at night until five in the morning while in port: a veritable boon, to be sure, for addicts and insomniacs alike.

For those onshore, Bermudians by and large, who believe some form of gambling is needed to boost their struggling businesses, they now find themselves at a competitive disadvantage.

We might reasonably expect them to shout foul or maybe they would have had they been asked: the Chamber of Commerce was apparently not consulted, this time around. The cruise ships have leverage now, I presume: it's either this or they will bypass us. Casinos now: entertainment and shops next?

The competitive unfairness was the nub of the argument against the last time around: what is sauce for the visiting goose should be sauce for the local gander. But hey, if it flies this time it might be used to give impetus to the introduction of gambling on shore.

Remember too, some MPs remain from the last vote and astute observers (read news reporters and partisans?) will no doubt be watching closely to see who flips, and who flops, whether for or against, when the music starts and the dancing begins on the Hill.

Circumstances have changed sure. But the more things change, the more they...... No need for me to complete the sentence. We all know how it goes.

Even the longest day has an end

As you know I actually write my columns, but readers also write and with an eloquence that cannot always be matched. So I share with you without comment what my good friend and former colleague Neville Darrell wrote to me after last week's column: -

“Thanks for another critical analysis of the work and challenges of the SAGE Commission. I agree that the proof of the pudding will be in the eating. These are challenging times for our blessed homeland — the best of times and the worst of times.

“So many times public consultation is a process whereby governments everywhere employ with the electorate the daunting, perilous and potentially catastrophic consequences of government actions taken in the past or actions to be taken in the future. The great tension in the community is simply waiting for the other shoe to be dropped. We all know that this is a sorrow and like it or not we must bear it.

“As a boy growing up in Bermuda I was often privy to the remarkable wisdom of a Bermuda that has now largely vanished as a result of modernity and rampant materialism. My Ma [aka my grandmother] was an undiscovered prophetess of her time and wise, straightforward truths and life lessons flowed often and effortlessly form her matriarchal lips. I took much of her teaching to heart and will share a brief saying with you which speaks with laser-like precision to the current challenges facing the SAGE Commission in general and the Bermuda public in particular — The longest day has an end.

“ It is not within the scope of my response to offer a more complete and thorough exegesis of recent political history other than to say that years of polarisation of our community around issues of race; misplaced, insufficiently conceptionalised and monitored ventures in the area of economic empowerment; serial cost over-runs of government capital works projects; unchecked growth of the civil service, among other things; have collectively yielded long term and perhaps unintended consequences for our country.

“The longest day has now come to an end and this is not a political statement but a practical and pragmatic truism. It is now time to pay the bill to secure a more stable future for ourselves and our children. I am confident in the people of Bermuda.

“Tough decisions will ultimately have to be made but with clarity of thought and steadfastness of purpose, we will get beyond the challenges of the present and perhaps even take away our own measure of wisdom for meeting the challenges of our future.”

n To share your views write jbarritt@ibl.bm or join in on The Royal Gazette website (www.royalgazette.com)

Neverendum: Will Government hold a referendum on gaming, or wait to see the reaction to its Cruise Ships (Casino) Ac?
SAGE words

Overheard coming out of one of the Commission’s public meetings:

n ‘It’s so bad it makes you wonder why some of those very same people [who are now critical] didn’t stand up and speak up when the mistakes were being made’

n ‘It just goes to show the business of running a government is just too important a business to leave to politicians’.

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Published September 27, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated September 26, 2013 at 9:51 pm)

Will they or won’t they

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