Casinos ‘could help put Bermuda on map’
Casinos could help to Bermuda to compete internationally as a tourist destination, according to the executive director of the Bermuda Casino Gaming Commission, Richard Schuetz.
Meanwhile, the commission's chairman Alan Dunch noted that “exploratory talks” were taking place with five major international casino operators.
In an interview with The Royal Gazette, Mr Schuetz said that if one of the major operators did come to the Island, it would help to further bolster the tourism industry.
“There would be free media if that happens. That would be news. That would help put this place on the map,” he said. “Secondly, those guys have a name for a reason. They deliver. They win.
“When I'm making a hotel reservation, if it's Bob and Tom's hotel I don't know what that means, but if it's the Hyatt Regency I kind of know what that's going to mean. Brands are important. Brands are hugely important in tourism.”
While he noted that casino gaming had already been introduced in locations around the world, including 40 US states, Mr Schuetz said casinos would help to make Bermuda more competitive in tourism.
“Now when they are shopping, they say maybe they should go to the Bahamas because they like their casino,” he said. “They say, ‘I like the water, I like the beaches, I like the entertainment, I like the restaurants, but I also like to play a little.'
“Right now we are competing with Singapore, we are competing with the Bahamas, we are competing with Jamaica, who's going to launch a casino product. It might be that quaint still sells, but there is a concern.
“The new model is that casinos are part of the product around the globe and that's only growing.”
He said the introduction of Singapore was quite contentious, with concerns expressed about money laundering and gaming addiction, but since it had been introduced those concerns had died out.
“There are issues, and there have to be policies in place, but typically if you look at experience after experience there is a group of people who say it's going to be bad, but if you look at the 40 states in the US that offer casinos, any of the European or Asian countries, name one jurisdiction that said those people were right and that it was a mistake. Not one jurisdiction has ever done that.
“I'm not saying there's not a downside, but name an industry where there isn't a downside?”
Mr Schuetz also said that while people noted the negative social impact of gaming, they rarely compared those downsides with the social impact of unemployment.
“Casinos have proven themselves time and time again as an agent of employment,” he said. “The other analysis people don't do is comparing it to the illegal stuff that's going on. So much of that now is on the internet. There's no tax revenue, there's no protection, and it's not labour intensive, or labour intensive a little bit in Costa Rica or wherever they are located.”
He also noted the creation of the Problem Gaming Council, a legislated body aimed at addressing the issues stemming from problem gaming.
“We will absolutely be engaged in that project,” Mr Schuetz said. “Days ago I was on the phone with Keith White, the head of the National Counsel on Problem Gambling in the US, and I was talking about him coming here because I want him to give a lecture.
“That is one of the things we do, protections for the vulnerable. There's a lot of science there, but there's also a lot of myth and mystery. We will make evidence-based decisions on programmes that work.”
He said communication had to take place, along with the establishment of a call centre, and noted that there would be an exclusion programme to prevent problem gamers from gambling in casinos.
“No other industry has those controls,” he said. “Wouldn't it be great if you were an alcoholic if you sign something and no one can sell you a drink and, if they do, it's a violation of the law? But we don't impose that.
“This is a mental health area. This is not a morals area. I would like to see trained treatment providers on this, and we will develop systems that will cause that to happen.”