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Gaming is up for discussion, says Minors

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Tourism Minister Patrice Minors is ready to put aside her personal anti-gambling views for the good of the Country.

The politician has said she will start pushing for casinos in Bermuda if most residents agree it is the best way forward for tourism.

Ms Minors says she will go against her own views because the Island needs to take immediate action to secure the future of the tourism industry.

The change of heart comes after she voted against the gaming bill, telling the House of Assembly that legalising casinos would see “Bermudians losing to make a profit”.

Ms Minors has also received widespread criticism in recent months for refusing to adopt innovative ideas to turn around the struggling industry.

She said: “I think I have previously made my position on gaming quite clear. Everyone knows what I said when I discussed the issue in the House. I will reserve any further comment there.

“But what is important now is developing Bermuda as a tourist destination. That has to be my first priority.

“For that reason, gaming will be discussed as part of the national tourism plan. If there is overwhelming support for it at the town hall meetings then that is what we will have to look at.”

Introducing casinos to the Island is an issue that has refused to go away with its supporters saying it will bring in tourists, create jobs and generate millions of dollars.

However, those against it argue casinos will divert spending away from shops, bars and restaurants and ruin Bermuda’s unique appeal. Many people also disagree with the concept due to religious beliefs.

But Ms Minors says it will now be up to residents to have their say on whether they are in favour of gambling. The initial proposals of the national tourism plan will be discussed at a series of town hall meetings next month.

Ms Minors said initial ideas for the national tourism plan include gambling, improving public transportation, new hotel developments and the setting up of a tourism authority.

She said: “My recognition is that we need to do something different. We need to take our tourism product to another level.

“But we are looking for the public’s input with the national tourism plan.

“We will let the public decide on the hot-button items then come up with decisions before it goes through the Cabinet process.”

Introducing gambling to Bermuda received overwhelming support from tourism leaders earlier this year. It was a top talking point at a two-day retreat, which was seen as a “make or break” debate for the tourism industry among representatives from hotels, the Chamber of Commerce and the Department of Tourism.

But in July 2009 Premier Ewart Brown’s gaming bill failed with seven Progressive Labour Party MPs voting against it. Dr Brown shocked the House of Assembly by attempting to push the legislation through without rebel or Opposition MPs knowing but his plan backfired as the bill went down 18 votes to 11.

Then in May 2010, 24 out of 32 MPs spoke out against a Green Paper on Gaming telling Dr Brown to drop the idea as there were more pressing issues to deal with.

Ms Minors was then quoted as saying the introduction of gambling is not in the best interest of Bermudians and that it implies that Government cares more for tourists than them.

“With gambling someone has to lose for someone else to win,” she said. “It is not right to have a system that relies on Bermudians losing to make a profit. We need to seriously look at the ramifications of pursuing gambling.”

The then-Deputy Premier Paula Cox said she did not support the Green Paper, but would consider it again in the future.

Shadow Tourism Minister Patricia Gordon-Pamplin applauded Ms Minors for taking the national plan to the public, but questioned why it had taken so long.

She said: “The Tourism Minister is already well down the road of no plan for Bermuda, and she should be demanding from her board a response to the completion of such a plan.

“The Minister, in indicating her personal preferences for prohibiting gaming, is making a cardinal error. Representation is not intended for one’s personal view, but rather the view of those being represented.

“Taking the concept to the public is the right approach, as there must be buy-in from a significant portion of the electorate in order for new policies to be effective. It is a shame that this is taking so long, and is the result of a scattershot approach to tourism.

“Bermuda deserves to have people driving the tourism bus who are experts in the field and know how to plan, implement, monitor and account, hence our continued rally cry for a tourism authority. We are experiencing serious inertia by Government during a time when people are desperate for jobs and solutions.”

Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) and the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce are among those who have officially expressed their support for gambling.

Hotelier Norman Mastalir, who was formerly managing director of Fairmont Bermuda, was also staunch supporter of introducing gambling to the Island, going as far as holding pro-gaming presentations urging Bermuda not to fall “behind the rest of the world”.

Entertainer Tony Brannon, who was fired from the Tourism Board, said Ms Minors had told him she was “dead against” gambling.

He has said: “We need to shake things up. Government has to have the courage to make a huge leap of faith.

“The national plan can’t be what the Minister wants or Government wants, it has to be what Bermuda needs”.

Entertaining the tourists: Local group David Moniz and the Bermudians played at the Waterfront Square, on Front Street, yesterday morning. David Moniz is standing on the left with King Trott. They sang the local classic ?Remember Bermuda? by the Talbot Brothers. Tourism Minister Patrice Minors yesterday said she would seek the views of the public on allowing gambling and casinos on the Island as new attractions for tourists
Roulette Wheel and Marble Spinning ¬ Gambling and Gaming

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Published August 23, 2011 at 2:00 am (Updated August 23, 2011 at 9:21 am)

Gaming is up for discussion, says Minors

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