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Gambling ‘something that needs to be done’ — hoteliers

News that Government is committed to holding a referendum on gambling has been welcomed by hoteliers.

And the Bermuda Hotel Association is also hoping that any vote will result in “a positive outcome” to allow casinos to open up on the Island.

The OBA Government had hoped to hold a referendum on the subject within 12 months of winning last December's general election.

And while the vote has been delayed, Government yesterday confirmed that it was “committed to having a referendum on gaming in the first quarter of 2014”.

“The Government has created a Gaming Committee that is currently reviewing and analysing existing material on gaming, as well as gathering new information on the subject,” Governor George Fergusson said when presenting the Throne Speech on Friday.

“The committee is also considering various operating and governance models including the establishment of a gaming commission.

“The referendum will be preceded by a substantive public information campaign.”

Bermuda Hotel Association president John Harvey said he was delighted to see Government was finally “putting the issue on the front burner”.

“The view of the association is that this issue should have been addressed some time ago,” Mr Harvey said.

“It was put on the back burner by the last Government and so we're hoping that there's a real commitment to holding this referendum this time around — it's something that needs to be done.”

Mr Harvey said that, while casinos would not be “a panacea” for the tourism industry, it was an amenity that would make the Island more attractive to visitors and developers.

“It is something that customers want, it is something that developers want and it is something that our competitors have,” Mr Harvey said.

“People who love Bermuda end up going to the Bahamas because we don't have it. It's a bit like a swimming pool.

“What hotel anywhere in the world today doesn't have a swimming pool. It doesn't mean that everybody wants to go for a swim, but if you don't have one, they're not going to come in the first place.”

Earlier this year, hotel developer Craig Christensen said that uncertainty over the gaming debate was harming the Island, putting it in “the worst possible position”.

“We've been talking about it, but we really do need to say either ‘yes' or ‘no' at some point, because uncertainty is the worst position we can be in,” Mr Christensen, who heads up the company developing a $2 billion resort at Morgan's Point, told The Royal Gazette.

“Uncertainty doesn't help accelerate the way developers can think about doing new developments on Island. It's a case of ‘if yes, great, if no, at least we know what your doing'.”

Tourism Minister Shawn Crockwell, who speaks for Government on the issue, has said that he supports gaming, but that a referendum was needed because the question “should ultimately be decided by the people of the country”.

Place your bets: Government is committed to holding a gambling referendum in the first quarter of 2014.

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Published November 12, 2013 at 8:00 am (Updated November 11, 2013 at 9:33 pm)

Gambling ‘something that needs to be done’ — hoteliers

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