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Gaming: do we really want it?

David J. Sullivan was an independent candidate in the 2011 by-election for Devonshire South Central

It is far too easy to be caught up in the here and now. Sound, sensible leadership is recognised not for its ability to react in kneejerk fashion to every new event that comes to the fore, but rather to calmly and thoughtfully budget, plan, execute, readjust — and execute again.

In a rather cavalier response to the question of gaming in Bermuda, a noted former leader of our country opined that “Those who say ‘no’ to a casino are asked to produce suggestions of new and viable revenue streams, which would help solve some of the social problems that are on the rise”. The quantum leap that is made in this assertion is that the addition of a casino of unknown quantity is somehow going to answer or indeed solve the rising social problems in Bermuda.

Let us just for a moment look at the aspect of gaming from the proposed two-headed solution. That is of a revenue stream and a social-problem stimulus. One could initially argue that they are in fact self-balancing, for if you raise the revenue and spend it on rising social problems to what benefit is this for the rest of Bermuda? Of course, if reversed, it is more dire, for if you do not raise the anticipated revenue ... well, you get where I am going. I don’t believe for a moment that the contributor envisions only a social-needs benefit. So let’s examine the issue on a slightly broader scale.

Gaming, which is the question before us and not a single casino, is more than just simply a building or a piece of legislation allowing it to transact. In its ultimate form, gaming is or indeed can become another pillar of one’s economy.

So, what is gaming? A simple bingo card, more prolific Crown and Anchor, reallowance of electronic video machines, card games, board games, horse betting, sports betting, online betting, off-track betting, lotteries, all of the above, some of the above? Once again, we grapple with that age-old conundrum of “too small to be big and too big to be small”.

Bermuda today is ill-equipped socially, legislatively and from an infrastructural standpoint to undertake gaming and be serious about it. I am sure that there is some modern-day snake oil salesman who could try to convince us that with a tweak here and a tweak there, “baa boom!” you are a gaming destination. We fell into and out of tourism, as the younger generation would say, from hero to zero. Why? What, if any, conscious, honest, heart-searching, fact-finding study has been done to give the leadership, any leadership, the necessary information. Surely, no one really believes that it just happened. I know that no one really subscribes to “it was the other government’s fault”, not after ten years! What empirical data can we point to that says, “here is where we went wrong and gaming will get us right”? Anecdotal information is useful only if you are trying to get rid of “dotals”.

The international business industry (economy) historically sought out Bermuda. Yes, we were very quick off the mark to see its value and potential. We pursued, some will argue at the cost of tourism, the international business economy with the effort we needed to ensure that we were the most attractive.

We changed our planning, immigration, housing, schooling, health services, tax and monetary policies, and a myriad of other social and cultural ways to support the industry. No serious industry would require anything less. In the style of our former glory days of tourism, it was not long before the competition was at our door knocking for a chance to compete.

Gaming as an industry, as an economic pillar, as a society, is old. What is it that we would have to do 1, To make Bermuda a destination of choice for gaming; and 2, To attempt to succeed in the social ills and benefits area? Areas where many other destinations have failed, and failed miserably?

Gaming, the industry, will require much of Bermuda. Not unlike tourism and international business, it stands to change the very social and economic fabric of Bermuda. The question is, how will it change? Gaming still needs to be defined and examined thoroughly as to the effects that are possible from its introduction within our society, both bad and good.

Who cares if we as Bermudians or residents can participate or not? Who cares whether one hotel over another gets it or not? Who cares whether it’s the East End, Dockyard or Hamilton that has it or not? These are simple logistics. An awful lot of time and money has already been spent, with another $10 million of borrowed money soon to be added — and there is not a casino in sight.

The question remains whether we, Bermuda, want it or not. All else pales.

• David J. Sullivan was an independent candidate in the 2011 by-election for Devonshire South Central

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Published March 21, 2023 at 8:00 am (Updated March 21, 2023 at 12:32 pm)

Gaming: do we really want it?

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