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A casino in Bermuda

The global economics are changing at a rapid rate as Bermuda continues to see a downturn in tourism and the continued threat to our international business. The current decline, for reasons often outside of our control, is likely to continue, particularly since so many big nations are compelled to seek new sources of revenue.

Bermudians, I am sure, recognise that the above events have and will continue to diminish our sources of income, and, as a consequence, be the cause of more and more people becoming unemployed. The type of jobs many Bermudians will be seeking will not be jobs normally carried out by non-Bermudians, therefore, the concept often touted that we can just send people home is not always relevant.

If Bermuda is to maintain the generosity and size of its social and welfare system, we have to create new sources of revenue. If the Government and private sector are to continue to guarantee generous pensions, health insurance, free education, free public transportation for seniors, free licence of cars by seniors, non-payment of land tax by seniors and a safety net of financial assistance for those in need, then I believe there is a strong case to be made to establish a well-structured, well-regulated casino in Bermuda as another form of much needed revenue.

Other sources of revenue must be found to supplement the two traditional areas of revenue that have served Bermuda, tourism and international business. We will continue to see an erosion of our economy and even more unemployment. Therefore, it is incumbent upon us to try and produce an environment that is conducive to people choosing Bermuda as a preferred travel and business destination.

We also need to ensure that the level of activity is in concert with the interest of Bermudians who are likely to be seeking employment. The establishment of a casino in Bermuda will create quality jobs right across the employment spectrum.

My support for the development of the waterfront is to assist in revitalising the City of Hamilton, which would include an entertainment centre that incorporates a casino, where hotel guests, tourists on ships in Dockyard and elsewhere, as well as locals and guest workers would be encouraged to make greater use of the entertainment centre and other amenities in the city.

The quality of the entertainment centre would be such that it would also be a gathering place for visiting international people, who today find Bermuda dull and boring. This is particularly true for most people who come expecting to have an eventful stay in Bermuda, and if the weather is not amicable, they feel they are wasting their time and therefore either cut their time short or resolve not to make a return visit.

There have been concerns about Bermudians having access to the casino and rightfully so. Therefore, some guidelines should be established as to how a person ordinarily resident in Bermuda can attend the casino and a provision made that is fair and not in violation of the Human Rights Act. A fair method to achieve access would be to set up a gaming commission, whose job would be to oversee the running of the casino and the access, which must be by way of the issuance of an annualised electronic licence that the casino commission could cancel at any time. The condition for obtaining the licence would be well spelled out and publicised periodically and legally enforced by the appropriate authorities with the casino operators being held accountable.

The main benefits of the casino and entertainment centre would be the public purse or a public trust, which would have the specific purpose of serving the public good.

Bermuda is at a major crossroad where the luxury of procrastination has already run out, income is falling and unemployment is rising. If we act soon we might once again see hope on people's faces and in their actions. However, not to act is to continue to see frustrations building and acts of anti-social behaviour increase.

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.