Worsening the odds

Debating gaming is a dangerous sport.

People tend to have such entrenched views that talking about it goes in circles without resolution. Proponents don’t want to talk about the social costs while opponents only want to talk about them.

Studies on economic benefits can come up with wildly varying conclusions, throwing their veracity into doubt.

In Bermuda, the process has been further clouded by the mess surrounding the referendum

So now there’s a petition pushing for a referendum to be held anyway, backed by a group which does seem to represent a genuine cross section of people.

If the petition gets a lot of support, this will futher discredit the Government. In itself this will be an interesting test of public interest in the issue. It may be that the vast majority of Bermudians don’t really care and may not have voted anyway, in which case the damage to the Government will be small.

That does not mean they don’t support it, though. A comment of Tourism Minister Shawn Crockwell’s stood out yesterday. He said:

“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.”

If this is really the case (and even without the obviously loaded statement, a large majority probably do support gaming), why didn’t Crockwell and Craig Cannonier go ahead and hold the referendum? Seventy percent support is remarkably high, so the very good odds are that a referendum would have been successful. It remains an absolute mystery why the OBA burdened itself  with this unnecessary problem.

Crockwell also ruled out a standalone casino in favour of one or more casinos being located in hotels. That’s more cost effective and should directly help the hotels who get licences, but may alienate those who see a casino on, say, Front Street, as the centrepiece of a new waterfront revival (ie Sir John Swan). Maybe that doesn’t matter now that there isn’t going to be a referendum, but it would have been wise for Crockwell to build some support before he started alienating the people who were already backing him.

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