Casinos will operate within existing or new hotels rather than as stand alone facilities in order to “enhance our tourism infrastructure”, according to Tourism Minister Shawn Crockwell.
And training programs will be provided to give Bermudians “a jump start” on careers in the gaming industry once legislation is passed legalising gambling.
At a press conference this afternoon, Mr Crockwell said that Government would begin a public education programme later this month in order to outline its “vision, goals, objectives and measurable outcomes associated with casino gaming”.
Government had originally pledged to hold a referendum on gaming within a year of coming into office in December, 2012. But last month it controversially backtracked on that promise, claiming that the Opposition Progressive Labour Party had threatened to undermine the process.
“This was a difficult decision for the Government but in the circumstances we are confident it was the right decision for Bermuda,” Mr Crockwell said today.
“We are also confident that the majority of Bermudians support the introduction of casino style gaming. This is supported by recent polling results which suggest that approximately 70 percent of Bermudians favour the legalisation of gaming in Bermuda to assist in bringing jobs, increase tourism and generate revenue on the Island. These poll results will be made available during our upcoming public education programme.”
The Minister said that Government had “worked diligently” in order to establish how the industry should operate on the Island.
“We engaged industry leaders as well as consulted with past and current leaders of jurisdictions that have already implemented casino gaming and believe we are on the right track in creating an industry that will be beneficial to the Island whilst limiting adverse effects,” he said.
“Following an extensive review and analysis, the government has decided to embrace the Integrated Casino Resort model for Bermuda. Although we will be unique and maintain our special Bermuda brand this model is similar to the Aruban and Singaporean casino models.
“It is paramount that the Government now engages the public with the salient information concerning what we are proposing and all of the main issues surrounding this industry. There is a great deal of misinformation out there about the casino gaming industry and what we as the government plan to implement here in Bermuda. We want to disseminate the facts and hear everyone’s view on this issue. During the public education period, we will share the data we have collected which will include the potential economic benefits, potential social risks and how to mitigate against those risks and the potential for job creation for Bermudians.
Mr Crockwell insisted that the public would still “have a voice in this process” by providing ideas and feedback on a dedicated website, while six town hall meetings are scheduled for next month.
“The Government is also working to support a jobs fair that will highlight the various employment opportunities in this industry and provide information on how Bermudians can get a jump start on training for future job opportunities,” Mr Crockwell said.
“We will be working with numerous entities to ensure the information provided is timely and accurate. Bermudians will be able to obtain information via the web, social media as well as traditional media outlets. We will have an open comment period that will begin on January 28 that will give Bermudians access to a dedicated website 24 hours per day. This will allow Bermudians the opportunity to give feedback, ideas, and concerns related to gaming in Bermuda. The official comment period will end on February 28.
“I personally invite the public to get fully engaged in this education programme and have your voice heard. We must get this right for our Island and I want the public to know that we, your Government, took the time to ensure that this decision was in fact the right decision for Bermuda’s economic future.
“Casino gaming is not a panacea but a much needed amenity for our tourism product. We must augment our tourism offerings and we must enhance our tourism infrastructure. The data shows that with the implementation of responsible and well regulated casino gaming we can attract new high-end hotel brands and additional hotel inventory. Casino gaming will bring hotel investors to the Island which will lead to Bermudian jobs.
“We have a wonderful opportunity to set the example by working together to implement the best holistic casino gaming model this world has seen. Let us usher in a tourism renaissance together.