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Churchman backs casino gambling

One of the Island's leading pastors has expressed support for casino gambling, at a public forum on social justice.

The African Methodist Episcopal Church's Nicholas Tweed also said the debate on gaming needed to stop beating around the bush.

“Let's talk specifically about limited casino licensing,” Rev Tweed told a gathering of about 75 at the AME St Paul Centennial Hall. “If that's really what we're talking about, let's start talking.”

Tongue in cheek, the St Paul Pastor said: “At the risk of being non-controversial, when Bermudians stop taking trips to Las Vegas and Atlantic City — then I will oppose gaming.”

Asked by a member of the public for his view, Rev Tweed said: “In terms of a public, secular position, I think limited casino licensing should be looked at and evaluated on its strength as a business proposition.”

The forum, entitled “Achieving Social Justice in Bermuda's Business-Centred Economy”, also heard from area MPs Glen Smith of the One Bermuda Alliance, and David Burt of the Progressive Labour Party.

Both men voiced their support for gaming, with Mr Burt reaffirming his party stance on putting the ultimate decision to the people.

Touching on the racial disparity in drug sentencing, Mr Burt also said: “It's my view that the drug policy we have in place in this country does not work, and we need to look at changing that.”

Asked about decriminalising cannabis, he said: “You can be certain that the same amount of white people smoke weed as black people — but how many do you see in court each week?”

Mr Smith avoided that particular question.

However, addressing the idea of a capital-gains tax that would specifically benefit black Bermudians to address the inequalities put in place under segregation, he replied: “I think, at the end of the day, we're all Bermudians — there are a lot of people that look like me who are suffering. I think there should be a balanced approach, and not just for one race.”

The entrepreneur and Devonshire North West MP speculated Bermuda's economy might start to turn around in late 2014 or 2015.

“Some people may think our economic conditions make it more difficult to open a new business today than in the past, but I actually think this is a good time to launch or rebrand a business,” Mr Smith said. “With our high unemployment, there are a lot of well-qualified people seeking work opportunities — and so this is actually a good time to be looking for staff.”

Reflecting the philosophical differences that have characterised recent debate in the House of Assembly over legislation aimed at providing perquisites for job makers and big businesses, Shadow Finance Minister Mr Burt was sceptical of the notion of “trickle-down economics”.

Bermuda hasn't seen shared sacrifice in shouldering the effects of the recession, Mr Burt said.

The PLP had offered breaks to supermarkets, he went on. “But did we see a price reduction?”

Big businesses, Mr Burt maintained, were “pocketing the difference”.

“People at the top, the business owners, large businesses, established businesses, are still reaping profits, at the same time the working classes are suffering.”

The Pembroke West Central said international business was being offered a break from regulations at the same time that small businesses and entrepreneurs had to contend with “archaic” laws.

Rev Tweed took a stronger line, charging that Bermuda's attitude toward international corporations was one of “we're afraid you will stop exploiting us and leave”.

“They are not hiring people from our community. Jobs they create are not being filled by local people.”

To applause, he added: “They are bringing in people that don't speak English to fill those jobs.”

Social justice, Rev Tweed said, needed to “act as a moral constraint, to restrain unrestrained capital”.

The panel at the Social Justice Forum at St Paul's AME Centennial Hall. Pictured (from left) are David Burt, Rev Nicholas Tweed and Glen Smith. (Photo by Akil Simmons)

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Published October 16, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated October 16, 2013 at 1:26 am)

Churchman backs casino gambling

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