Live Blogging: Parliament’s Gaming Debate

May 7, 2010

Bermuda 101[Updated with final tally: 32 MPs spoke, 23 against, 7 for, 2 undetermined. Full 10 hours of debate coverage below, and concise wrap-up here]

The subject of gaming has been much discussed and debated amongst locals, with it now officially being debated in the House of Assembly right now, with no vote to be taken.

Two political parties have already made their positions fairly clear; with the UBP releasing a statement saying they feel gaming is not in the best interest of Bermuda, the BDA releasing a statement supporting the concept with conditions.

The PLP has not released an official statement, and their position is not officially established. Premier Dr Ewart Brown would generally be considered in favour of the gaming, however the PLP, under the leadership of Alex Scott, enacted the legislation to remove machines from establishments that were using them a few years ago.

According to the Green Paper, gambling would add nearly 3,000 jobs and up to $146 million a year to Bermuda’s economy. The island’s religious community is in strong opposition to gaming, and has formed a group ‘United to Change’ to work to oppose it.

Bernews has been live blogging since 10am today, to see the live blogging of the previous [non-gaming] comments in the House, see here.

The round-up of MP’s positions [23 of 32 against, MPs for are Premier, DeSilva, Pettingill, Crockwell, Lister, Weeks, Tucker ]

  1. PLP Premier Dr Ewart Brown: For
  2. PLP Deputy Premier Paula Cox: Against
  3. PLP Wayne Furbert: Against
  4. PLP Patrice Minors: Against
  5. PLP Zane DeSilva: For
  6. PLP Walter Lister: For
  7. PLP Michael Weeks: For
  8. PLP Elvin James: Against
  9. PLP Alex Scott: Against
  10. PLP Walter Roban: Against*
  11. PLP Randy Horton: Against
  12. PLP Dale Butler: Against
  13. PLP Dame Jennifer Smith: Against
  14. PLP Michael Scott: Against*
  15. PLP Lovitta Foggo: Against
  16. PLP Ashfield DeVent: Against
  17. PLP Dennis Lister: Against
  18. PLP Neletha Butterfield: Bernews could not determine position
  19. PLP Glenn Blakeney: Bernews could not determine position
  20. UBP Opposition Leader Kim.Swan: Against
  21. UBP John Barritt: Against
  22. UBP Bob Richards: Against
  23. UBP Dr Grant Gibbons: Against
  24. UBP Patricia Gordon-Pamplin: Against
  25. UBP Louise Jackson: Against
  26. UBP Charles Swan: Against
  27. UBP Cole Simons: Against
  28. UBP Trevor Moniz: Against
  29. BDA Mark Pettingill: For
  30. BDA Shawn Crockwell: For
  31. BDA Donte Hunt: Against
  32. Independent Darius Tucker: For

*Positions were not strongly made, but veered towards for/against

Below we are live blogging it for those interested. Each speaker gets 30 mins time. To refresh your screen press the ‘F5′ key:

12:12pm: Premier Dr. Ewart Brown [PLP] commences. Says Bermuda’s tourism is suffering like many other areas. Says “amenities matter”

12:18: Dr Brown says 43 submissions were received on the Green Paper, including one submission from United for Change, thanks those that responded.

12:25: Dr Brown says Bermuda must not lose our edge, which took us from salt, to onions, to lilies, to tourism, to international business

12:29: Dr Brown says no study can ignore any potential social problems that may arise, and speaks on aspects of the Green Paper which address it.

12:32: Dr Brown says that on handling gaming. “social responsibilities must come first, revenue second”.

12:35: Dr Brown references Sunday shopping, says Churches were against it when the concept was introduced, and now the local culture has adapted.

12:37: Dr Brown finishes

12:39pm: House adjourns for lunch until 2pm, as do we…

1:44pm: Full comments from Premier Dr Brown added, scroll to read:

“Don’t be afraid to take a big step. You can’t cross a chasm in two small jumps.” – David Lloyd George

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to lead a debate on an issue which naturally flows from the economic discussion that dominated the proceedings in this Honourable House in the previous session. It may well be the case that Honourable Members a year or two ago could’ve paid little attention to this matter and dismissed it as some flight of fancy. The global canvass on which the world’s economic fortune is painted features broad strokes of uncertainty, accents of Regional challenges and subtle hints of opportunity for the bold.

Mr. Speaker, I cite the British Prime Minister Lloyd George because he was called upon both as Chancellor and as Prime Minister to introduce a fresh approach to taxation in the UK. What we know as death duties and land taxes were introduced against the opposition of the landed gentry and made him a pariah in the drawing rooms of polite society. He could not achieve the ends of his Government’s reforms in aid of the poor and the disenfranchised without this action and it would be another thirty years before Clement Atlee perfected his vision of a Government that had the ability to take care of its people from cradle to grave.

Mr. Speaker, Bermuda faces its own chasm in 2010. Like so many of our competitors and Regional partners, Bermuda’s tourism is suffering the effects of these global conditions. Conservative travel decisions, sluggish capital markets, waning hotel product and entertainment challenges are only some of what face us and many others. The reversal of those problems is not an overnight fix and I wish to make it crystal clear; my support of the introduction of legalized gaming in Bermuda is not based on the fact that it on its own will solve our tourism woes.

Instead Mr. Speaker, I see gaming as part of a package of changes that we have had to embrace as part of our maturation as a community. This country has had to accept some shifts in our reality. They include:

(i) money is not confined to in the United States’ North East corridor;
(ii) money has no colour;
(iii) amenities matter;
(iv) product, product, product;
(v) it is not enough to berth ships in a jewelry store, there must be something worth buying; and
(vi) our competitors flatter us only by their imitation of our former successes.

Mr. Speaker, embracing these realities has caused us to become conversant in a language we thought we could avoid just by being Bermuda. For me, I can remember when fractionals, condo-hotel and leaseback were curse words in Bermuda. Now however, we accept that a hotel is comprised of many moving parts of which these are some. We made the transition to these kinds of hotel products because to have not done so, would have signaled to the world that we were not in the tourism business. We did what we did in framing Hotel Concession legislation because it was necessary to put Bermuda first. That was the spirit in which that legislation won support across party lines in this Honourable House and elsewhere, Mr. Speaker, and it is that same attitude of what is best for Bermuda that must govern our approach to this issue of gaming.

Mr. Speaker, the American humorist Will Rogers put it best when he said, “Even if you are on the right track, you will get run over if you just sit there.” With our focus on hotel development, our approaches to India and China, the attempts to diversify our economy, and our emphasis on the improvement of education and public safety, Mr. Speaker, we are on the right track; but we cannot just sit there.

Mr. Speaker, this Green Paper on Gaming For Bermuda represents the fulfillment of this Government’s promise to provide for the people of Bermuda dispassionate research on the “vexed issue of gaming”. Since the Paper’s release on March 5th, we have seen public discussion stimulated and views pro and con expressed. This likewise fulfills the intention of the Paper’s preparation. With information, positions can be formed, views expressed and policy made. Mr. Speaker, 43 written submissions were received and among them was a single submission from United For Change, A Fellowship of Churches in Bermuda which bore over 2000 signatures. Mr. Speaker, I am pleased by the interest shown by those who took the time to respond and I wish to thank them for participating in the process. In fact just yesterday morning I met with the leaders of United For Change. As we listen to the views expressed in this Honourable House and have regard to those submissions from members of the public I expect that we will forge new legislation that achieves many of the aims expressed to be in the best interest of Bermuda.

Mr. Speaker, I have also noted the position of the United Bermuda Party and Bermuda Democratic Alliance. The BDA’s clear expression of support is welcomed and is supported by the facts on gaming. Mr. Speaker, I look forward to the UBP’s true position on gaming as from their Leader’s statement they appear to be against gaming “as pushed by the PLP Government”. Perhaps they support some other form of gaming or gaming presented by another Government.

Mr. Speaker, Honourable members will have had ample time to consider the Paper and I do not propose to read large portions of it. There are, however, a number of points I must make in support of the debate on the Paper and its contents.

Mr. Speaker, the Executive Summary sets out the process by which the research and recommendations come to exist and form part of the Paper. In this regard I again echo my thanks to the professionals of the Innovation Group who conducted the initial, detailed research and to the members of the Task Force on Gaming who received that report, sought the views of the public and submitted their recommendations for the consideration of Cabinet. If there was ever an exercise in democracy, Mr. Speaker, this is it!

Mr. Speaker, in what I think is one of the more laudable aspects of this exercise I wish to draw the attention of Honourable Members to page 1 of the Innovation Group’s report. That first paragraph accurately sets out the ambit of the research sought: “Specifically, we have been charged with recommending a gaming platform for the country that balances the tourism development goals of government with the array of potential economic benefits and reciprocal impacts associated with different scenarios.”

That summarized Mr. Speaker, means that we did not commission a study with a view to having gaming for gaming’s sake but with a targeted focus in mind, that of providing some stimulus to our tourism industry and an amenity that signals our continued competitiveness in the tourism marketplace.

Mr. Speaker, that directive as part of the scope of work accounts for the findings of the Innovation Group. Honourable Members will have noted that certain forms of gaming have not been recommended as a means by which to enhance tourism. I wish to point out that this does not mean that these forms of gaming, like hosting Internet wagering, should be ignored. Tourism is but one of the areas that can be helped by gaming and the open mind of Bermuda First that we bring to these considerations, means that we must determine the place, if any, for other forms of gaming also.

Mr. Speaker, the talk in the street about this discussion is focused mainly on casinos; and perhaps quite rightly. Casino gaming is the recommended option for Bermuda by both panels whose reports form this Paper. At page 4 of the Innovation Group’s Report, Mr. Speaker we find these words:

“Gaming, if established, will offer a complementary activity in Bermuda, where daytime activities such as golf and water sports are the primary activity. Based on interviews of hotel management and other tourism industry professionals, Bermuda formerly featured a higher level of entertainment and other evening activities. The drop in evening activities is a lost opportunity, in that some tourists will likely participate in gaming if it were available.”

And further on Mr. Speaker, “Despite its proximity to the population of major East Coast US cities and its natural beauty, Bermuda has fallen behind many Caribbean and even Central American destinations for many tourists. While casino style gaming may not be viewed as a panacea to correct Bermuda’s tourism challenges, the country is losing out on opportunities by not having casino gaming. Casino gaming is an industry that is now prevalent throughout the US and Caribbean, has become socially acceptable for many adults, and is expected to remain strong in the near and intermediate future as many adults get older.”

Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members will recall the address to key stakeholders by the Hon. Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace, Minister of Tourism of the Bahamas. His detailed and informative presentation can be summed-up in two words that describe what gaming could mean to Bermuda’s tourism: “Game-Change”. Shedding his competition’s hat for those few hours the Minister, a recognized tourism guru, clearly made the case for gaming’s positive impact on Bermuda’s tourism potential.

Mr. Speaker, this usefully frames the context of the tourism discussion as it relates to gaming and little expansion on this theme by me is required. Page 11 of the Innovation Group Report sharpens the focus. In the first paragraph, Mr. Speaker, they record a fact which our experience in hotel development has taught us: “More importantly, as a catalyst casino gaming will enhance the attractiveness of Bermuda for potential investors by not only adding an attractive amenity to a resort, but also providing an additional source of cash flow upon which capital can be raised.”

Mr. Speaker, this submission urges us as a jurisdiction to always have an eye to the future. We can be content with what we have but we must never again lose our competitive edge. That edge which moved us from salt to blockade running; from onions and lilies to tourism and international business. What appear to now be logical progressions is, in fact, the story of change for survival’s sake and in the name of doing what is best for Bermuda.

Mr. Speaker, the Task Force on Gaming was appointed to receive the work of the Innovation Group and to cast its findings through the prism of local sensitivities. This group hosted public meetings throughout the Island and invited written and oral submissions.

Mr. Speaker, in my initial meetings with the Task Force I attempted to steel their resolve for the opposition they would encounter. In fact, at page 5 of their report they record their expectations in this regard and note that as opposed to the full court press, they received 14 written submissions of which 2 were against gaming and had an average attendance of 45 at their public meetings. Mr. Speaker, I do not ascribe this to apathy on the part of the people of Bermuda but I am of the view that attitudes towards this whole issue of gaming have softened. Bermudians are worldly, rational people who in considering their own extensive travel experiences have come to recognize that properly managed and regulated gaming can make an effective addition to tourism amenities and to the variety of activities available to adults in their own communities.

Mr. Speaker, the Task Force considered all of the information before it and their findings can be summarized in the view expressed at page 7 of their report where they say “the expected economic rewards of the introduction of a casino gaming environment to Bermuda far outweigh the perceived risk of adverse social impacts.” This determination is important Mr. Speaker, because it was made by a cross section of Bermudians and was not requested or required of the Innovation Group.

Mr. Speaker, again employing their localized prism, I commend to Honourable Members their recommendation at page 10 of the report: “that the other forms of gaming that presently take place in Bermuda should come under one single, regulatory regime…”. Mr. Speaker, this recommendation was welcomed by Cabinet and is commended to Honourable Members for their support as it indicates, on its own, progress in this area.

Mr. Speaker, the Task Force considered potential casino locations and as Honourable Members will be aware, the City of Hamilton was considered and recommended as the most suitable. With this overall finding the Task Force also recommended:

(i) that an RFP process be conducted to attract the best in the world to operate such a casino;
(ii) that the casino should be privately owned and operated;
(iii) that there be no restrictions on the participation of Bermudians;
(iv) that gaming be permitted at the earliest opportunity; and
(v) that the revenue received be earmarked for, among other things, funding programmes aimed at addressing any potential negative social impact associated with gaming.

Mr. Speaker, no discussion on gaming can ignore the social impact it can have on individuals, families and communities. Genuine professionals in this field of gaming do not shy away from this aspect of matters and with that in mind, both the Innovation Group and the Task Force address it.

Pages 25 – 27 of the Innovation Group’s Report set out considerations in this area and page 27 in particular indicates in table form, the sum of the costs associated with gaming. Addressing the issues associated with the social problems that can arise is mitigated by the ability to afford the best help required and committing funding from the proceeds of the very activity that contributed to the issues.

Mr. Speaker, accepting the findings of the Innovation Group in this area, the Task Force states at page 14 of its report “one advantage, however, of coming into the game late is the fact that any adverse impacts can be assessed from the experiences of other jurisdictions, recognized in advance and planned for.” Mr. Speaker this is well stated and means that the introduction of gaming to Bermuda need not be as dramatic as it might have been for other jurisdictions.

Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members will recall that during the course of last month the Government made expertise in responsible gaming available for the respective Caucuses and those Independents within the Legislature. Representing the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation, Ms. Maggie McGee outlined for Honourable Members the tenets adopted to promote and operate gaming responsibly in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia.

In this regard Mr. Speaker Honourable Members will have taken note of the Social Responsibility Charter that forms part of this Green Paper. Responsible gaming would form the centerpiece of any Government regulated industry in almost identical terms to that contained at page three of that Charter. Any legalized gaming in Bermuda would seek to:

(i) protect and benefit Bermudians;
(ii) put social responsibility first;
(iii) make revenue a secondary priority;
(iv) help those who need it and prevent problems wherever possible;
(v) extend the benefits to all people;
(vi) make evidence based decisions
(vii) ensure integrity and security; and
(viii) give Bermudians the facts.

Mr. Speaker, some Honourable Members may speak to anecdotal experiences with the adverse impact of gaming on citizens and communities. I can only urge Honourable Members not to permit their position on this issue to be forged by personal misgivings but to put Bermuda first.

Mr. Speaker, the Green Paper invites Honourable Members and the public to take note of two jurisdictions and their approach to gaming. Regional partners St. Kitts and Jamaica are submitted for comparative purposes. The St. Kitts study speaks to the regulatory regime and Honourable members will note that that Island’s approach is to demand a series of fees and an annual tax payable by licensed casino gaming establishments. Licenses to carry on the business of physical gaming are only granted to hotels of at least 200 rooms.

Mr. Speaker, the Jamaica model is another submitted for the consideration of Honourable Members and the public. A Board of Trustees is charged with allocating funds under a model that has come to be known as CHASE – Culture, Health, Arts, Sports and Education.

Mr. Speaker, 40% of the funds from gaming is devoted to sports development. Some may deem this money well spent as athletes like Usain Bolt and many others are the lightening speed proof of the success of the programme.

It may well be that the dedicated allocation of the funds raised from gaming revenues is contemplated by any subsequent Bill to be considered by this Honourable House or form part of the policy framework in the administration of gaming. On that point I welcome the views of Honourable Members and as the Green Paper solicits, the views of the general public.

Mr. Speaker, when I tabled this Green Paper I invoked the example of Singapore and its recent experience with the introduction of casino gaming. Mr. Speaker, the parallels between Bermuda and Singapore are apparent and like us, their decision to introduce gaming was made against the background of a need to freshen their product offerings for tourists. Mr. Speaker, it is important to note that if a destination as noteworthy and one that evokes images of Southeast Asia’s exotic yet cosmopolitan flavour like Singapore responds to the demands of international competition with the introduction of gaming, we in Bermuda must engage in a real discussion of this issue on the same basis.

Mr. Speaker, if we are to be true to “Tourism as the 2nd pillar of the economy” and “Bermuda First”, two maxims that often feature in debate in this Honourable House, we must recognize the importance of this debate and formation of the policy in this area.

Mr. Speaker, I have reflected on those issues in modern times that have caused apparent angst in certain sectors of the community. From my experience in this Honourable House and just from coming of age in Bermuda, I recall the introduction of Sunday shopping. Retailers did everything but march for it; a strong church lobby opposed it, Ministers thought it the third rail of politics as a result. Who would believe today, Mr. Speaker, that it was ever an issue in this country? Customers demanded it, market forces have supported it and culturally we have adapted to it. Not every store is open on Sunday and not every person shops on Sundays. It is a matter of personal choice by merchant and customer alike….so it will be with gaming….a matter of choice….something available if you wish to take advantage of it and something you can ignore if you so choose.

Mr. Speaker, before I commend the remainder of this debate to Honourable Members, allow me to end with the words of a great lover of Bermuda, Mark Twain. He said:

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by things you did. So throw off the bow lines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Wise counsel, Mr. Speaker. Thank you.

2:07pm: Opposition Leader Kim Swan [UBP] speaking now…asks “why now? with all this country has to endure?”

2:11pm: Kim.Swan says the UBP has been speaking with the public, business leaders, and the clergy. Says people were for, against and undecided.

2:12pm: Kim.Swan Says although it’s not a PLP vs UBP thing, it is a PLP cabinet that brought the Green Paper through. Clarifies UBP position on gaming, says recommends a referendum as it’s a national issue.

2:15pm: Kim.Swan says the UBP is not playing politics with the issue, it’s too important.

2:19pm: Kim.Swan is quoting Bob Richards [UBP] saying crime is the #1 danger to our economy. Says our families are not as strong as they once were, and “it’s not good enough” to say do something which creates revenue and creates social problems.

2:26pm: Kim.Swan references Hawaii as a successful tourist jurisdiction without gaming, says like Hawaii we have natural beauty, and we can sell that, something other jurisdictions may not have. Speaks on what he sees as PLP government errors with tourism.

2:31pm: Kim.Swan says “we want to jeopardize everything that is Bermudian for a dollar”. Goes on to to discuss social issues – guns, crime, families, drug trade etc. He goes back to tourism…

2:42pm: Kim.Swan says he has worked in tourism all his life, and great experiences make people come back. Says he has gotten up in the middle of the night to get a visitor Preparation H as they needed to be comfortable.

2:44pm: Kim.Swan concludes, Mark Pettingill [BDA] begins

2:45pm: Mark Pettingill speaks says “Let’s get real” and “invites the churches and opposition” to get real. Says we are not “here to debate gaming, we are discussing the expansion of gaming”, as have had gaming in Bermuda for a long time, and we have a lot of gaming. References bingo, raffles, crown and anchor, betting shops.

2:50pm: Mark Pettingill heckled, Speaker of the House calls for quiet.

2:52: Mark Pettingill says our natural beauty is not enough to cut it, says other beautiful places have casinos. Says our tourism product is “dated”, and for “whatever reason is not pulling them in in droves”. Praises Tuckers Point and The Reefs.

2:56: Mark Pettingill refers to it as an ‘expansion of gaming’ repeatedly, and says it makes no sense to say putting on a tuxedo and playing blackjack is bad, but putting on Cup Match colours and playing Crown & Anchor is okay.

3:08: Mark Pettingill says we can’t jump into it, needs to be well thought out and researched. Calls for bipartisan approach in drafting legislation.

3:13: Mark Pettingill concludes, Wayne Furbert [PLP] begins

3:14: Wayne Furbert speaks in strong defense of the church, says his constituency [Hamilton Parish] is the “bible belt” of Bermuda. Says he can’t and won’t support gaming

3:18: Wayne Furbert references Mark Pettingill’s comment, and says he hopes when the BDA wants votes from the church, the church tells them to “get real”. Mentions Michael Fahy and Craig Cannonier from the BDA. Shawn Crockwell [BDA] interrupts to clarify a BDA point.

3:36: Wayne Furbert talks about importance of service in tourism industry, and says we should promote our “sun, sand, sailing and day time events”. Says our evening events are dead, and we need to bring things to life. References local entertainers such as Shine Hayward, Tony Brannon, 2 Fools, Bootsie and more – saying let’s put them back to work.

3:42: Wayne Furbert concludes, John Barritt [UBP] starts

3:48: John Barritt speaking against gaming, says report minimizes negative impact of social issues. Says Bermuda can be different, not the same. References Hawaii, same as Kim.Swan [UBP] did

4:14: John Barritt concludes, Deputy Premier Paula Cox [PLP] starts

4:15: Paula Cox speaks against gaming, says she does not think it’s the right thing for Bermuda. Some members of the House applaud…

4:22: Paula Cox says she thinks Bermuda should focus on international business, on tourism she says putting “Bermuda” back in tourism, pushes local entertainment. Says she thinks discussion an important one, helps shape future policy decisions of Bermuda.

4:25: Paula Cox says if we have gaming, “let’s not run before we can walk”, and sees it as a possible future part of hotel development. Says she was part of Government who prohibited gaming machines. Says again it is not the right time.

4:26: Paula Cox concludes, Donte Hunt [BDA] starts

4:27: Donte Hunt goes against BDA position, says he is against gaming. Says he has never gambled, Speaker interrupts and asks “not even Crown & Anchor?”, Mr Hunt says “only once”, many in House laugh…

4:33: Donte Hunt references studies, cites social concerns

4:57: Donte Hunt concludes, Patrice Minors [PLP] starts

4:58: Patrice Minors speaks against gaming saying “it’s not putting Bermuda first, it’s putting tourists first”. Cites social concerns, saying “it destroys lives”. Says she is against it now, 5 years later, 10 yrs later

5:13: Patrice Minors concludes, Bob Richards [UBP] starts

5:14: Bob Richards says he wonders why they are there at all, as so many are speaking against it.  Speaking against. Says many are speaking about social costs, without looking at economic costs, says he will analyze economic costs. Says “house always wins”, so population which casinos draws customers “always loses”, and in this case “we are talking about Bermuda, so population of Bermuda will always lose”. Calls it a net transfer of money. Says it’s the “low rollers” who make casinos the money, not “high rollers”, says it’s the business model for casinos.

5:34: Bob Richards says should be decided by referendum, same as Kim Swan [UBP] said earlier

5:44: Bob Richards concludes, Zane DeSilva [PLP] starts

5:49: Zane DeSilva calls Bob Richards “way out of touch”. Speaking for gaming, calls it adding “pop and sizzle” to our Tourism industry, says hotels support it, names Fairmont, Coco Reef, Tuckers Point. Says David Dodwell, Chamber of Commerce support it. Makes a comment about the gaming/betting shops we have already, says gaming would make us more diverse.

5:59: Zane DeSilva concludes, Elvin James [PLP] starts

6:03: Elvin James speaks against, says he researched, cites social concerns

6:12: Elvin James concludes, Alex Scott [PLP] starts

6:13: Alex Scott speaks against, says community loses, says he spoke with Former US Presidential candidate John McCain about it, he agrees. Says we have “enough on our plate now” and we have “young folks totally out of control”.

6:37: Alex Scott says “I didn’t support it when I was the Premier, and I don’t support it now that I am a lowly backbencher”

6:28: Alex Scott concludes, Walter Roban [PLP] starts.

6:30: Walter Roban says he doesn’t gamble, but has no moral issue with it. Says we have gaming here so this would be an expansion of gaming. Mentions betting shops, bingo, raffles, Crown & Anchor, mentions “unauthorized” and internet gaming. Says he is not enthused by expansion of gaming, we have other things to worry about. Says as Health Minister cannot ignore social risks, but then says things can be done to challenge the issues. Thinks debating Green Paper is good.

6:51: Walter Roban says he is “not comfortable with it all all”, one of his stronger anti-gaming statements, he is not speaking as strongly as others. Says he is not against it at a future time, says maybe now is not a right time, but maybe a year from now it may be. Mr Roban is not speaking as strongly against as others

6:57: Walter Roban concludes, Randy Horton [PLP] starts

7:00: Randy Horton speaks against expansion of gaming, says sends bad message to young people, cites additional social concerns, speaks alot on teaching young people the wrong concept

7:20: Randy Horton concludes, Dr Grant Gibbons [UBP] starts

7:21: Dr Gibbons notes many PLP have spoken against, says if majority of Government bench is against, why “are we standing here debating it”. Says UBP position is clear, doesn’t see gaming is a benefit to community. References a referendum, calls the Green Paper more like a sales plan

7:42: Dr Gibbons concludes, Dale Butler [PLP] starts

7:45: Mr Butler admits he has played Crown & Anchor and says he has a $2 bet out now that the Premier will leave in October. Says he talked to his constituents [called, emailed, door to door etc] and about 75% said no. Said he supports a referendum. Said he as an individual has no problem with a casino, but he must represent his constituents – so as an MP is against.

7:53 Dale Butler concludes, Patricia Gordon-Pamplin [UBP] starts

7:55: Mrs Gordon-Pamplin, against, calls the Green Paper a biased document, says “we should get a refund” as paper was so biased. Mentions Neil Inchcup’s [not by name] statements at the UBP Town Hall. Says we “might need to look at it again”, says more steps need to be taken, and maybe hotels need to take more steps. Says Dr Brown is at end of his political career brings up gaming, compares to Sir John

8:22pm Patricia Gordon-Pamplin concludes, Dame Jennifer Smith [PLP] starts

8:24: Dame Jennifer says the end doesn’t justify the means, speaking against gaming, cites social concerns, crime

8:33pm Dame Jennifer Smith concludes, Louise Jackson [UBP] starts

8:34pm: Mrs Jackson speaks against, says was horrified when she opened the Green Paper and saw a picture of school children [holds up Green Paper], quotes a Harvard study on teen gambling

8:50 Louise Jackson concludes, Glenn Blakeney [PLP] starts

8:52: Minister Blakeney commends all speakers and Premier for tabling paper, but he has doubts when it comes to the timing. Says he has nothing against gaming. Speaks for need of referendum, says there are pros and cons, says he if he had to vote for it now he would vote yes. Said we took success for granted before. Talks about local entertainers, says we should use them more, mentions Collie Buddz, Ninja Cutty. Says he would like to see the Church be as “vociferous” in addressing social ills as they are against gaming.

9:02: Bernews was unable to indisputably determine Minister Blakeney’s position, so in the interest of accuracy will file under “undetermined”

9:04 Glenn Blakeney concludes, Charles Swan [UBP] starts

9:10: Mr Swan is speaking against gaming, cites studies and other jurisdictions

9:13 Charles Swan concludes, Neletha Butterfield [PLP] starts

9:18: Minister Butterfield says she doesn’t want to reiterate everyone’s points, mentions social ills, she says we all have to work together. Her position on gaming is still unclear, she is speaking a fair amount on non-gaming matters. Talks about people approaching her for financial assistance help while she is in church. Closes by saying “I am in the valley”.

9:39: Bernews was unable to indisputably determine Minister Butterfield’s position, so in the interest of accuracy will file under “undetermined”

9:39: Neletha Butterfield concludes, Shawn Crockwell [BDA] begins

9:45: Shawn Crockwell says he was raised in the Seventh Day Church. Says he feels there is nothing wrong with playing a few dollars on the Crown & Anchor tables, but playing your rent money is, says the problem is not with gaming as such, but with the individual. Says he feels personally there is nothing immoral about gaming, but that he respects the Church’s position. Says we are a tourist destination, and have to decide if we want to be competitive, says our tourism product is in crisis, and that “Hamilton is a ghost town”, speaks to need for local entertainment, says is worth exploring the issue of gaming, figure out if it will assist us.

9:56: Mentions support of Sir John and David Dodwell for gaming, says employment must be for Bermudians, says revenue generated should go to Police, social services, health. Mentions referendum, encourages Government to take it under consideration, names July as a good month

10:03: Shawn Crockwell concludes, Michael Scott [PLP] starts

10:05: Minister Scott says it is not surprising a Tourism Minister brought up gaming, as there is a lot of pressure on. Speaks to timing of issue, says feels Green Paper was a bit “short” on benefits vs social impact. He says he met with Church leaders, says money laundering element concerns him. Says he is against at this time…

10:15: Michael Scott concludes, Cole Simons [UBP] starts

10:18: Cole Simons points out five Ministers spoke against it. Speaker says something [illegible] Mr Simons fires back “Dame Jennifer is not a Minister”. Say if we are going to do the right thing, white paper should be withdrawn and we address social problems.

10:22: Addresses the BDA members, says the party made a statement they support gaming and “one third of the BDA team” comes out against [Editors note: he was referring to Donte Hunt]

10:23: Mentions deciding by referendum, says Alex Scott [PLP] mentioned the word “corruption” over 20 times, saying he knows as he counted. Speaks to social ills, and need for local entertainers.

10:33: Cole Simons says “this Government cannot even keep drugs out of Westgate”, says if we cannot manage social ills now, how we will manage those that come with gaming

10:44: Cole Simons concludes, Government Whip Lovitta Foggo [PLP] starts

10:46: Ms Foggo says she has a mandate from her constituents, cites social problems, says she was approached by many constituents who made their views clear – and she would be speaking against them to say she supports gaming.

10:56 Lovitta Foggo concludes, Walter Lister [PLP] starts

11:00: Walter Lister speaking for gaming, says violence we have seen the last few months has not been from casinos. Says we need more local entertainment

11:00: Leader of the BDA Craig Cannonier released a statement at 11pm tonight clarifying the BDA’s position post anti-gaming position taken by Donte Hunt. Full statement is here.

11:07 Walter Lister concludes, Ashfield Devent [PLP] starts

11:15: Mr Devent mentions that only 43 people submitted feedback on Green Paper, mentions referendum, says he is “not comfortable making a decision”. Says it seems younger people may be more for gaming. Says country has many vices we cannot deal with, and can we deal with this. Says when we had machines before, while in court working he saw cases of people who locked their kids in the car. Says “its not the time”, says his constituents say there are more important things

11:28: Ashfield Devent concludes, Michael Weeks [PLP] starts

11:29: Mr Weeks says his father had a gambling den, and he grew up around gambling. Clearly states he supports gaming. Says his older constituents seemed more against it, the younger ones were more for it, and they are looking for a chance. Says can give tourism a boost, and help provide job opportunities. Acknowledges cons to gaming, but says we must look at whole picture and pros outweigh cons.

11:37 Michael Weeks concludes, Dennis Lister [PLP] starts

11:38: Mr Lister says it is one if the best debates he has seen in 20 years, says the issue isn’t one we should deal with at this time. Says he won’t speak on gaming much as “everyone knows he is opposed to it”, says we have young men killing each other and that is a bigger issue

11:44pm [Friday May 7th]: Dennis Lister concludes, Darius Tucker [Independent] starts

11:45: Mr Tucker begins by saying “Let me say straight up I support gaming”, says people should have choices. Says if Bermudians don’t like gaming, then don’t game.

12:13am [Saturday May 8th]: Darius Tucker concludes, Trevor Moniz [UBP] starts

12:15am: Notes it is a new day, so everyone should feel renewed. Mr Moniz says he is very skeptical about gaming, says as Shadow Minister of Justice expected to see raft of measures about violence, instead spend day debating gaming. Says gaming is not the issue to focus on now, crime and violence is.

12:25 All MPs present have spoken, only elected MPs not to speak at debate were Terry Lister, Wayne Perinchief, Derrick Burgess [all PLP]. Final count 32 total speakers, 23 against, 7 for, 2 undetermined by Bernews

12:26am: Motion to adjourn, Premier Dr Brown speaks

12:28am: Premier speaks on the debate, references all the comments about the need to focus on violence says ‘we can talk about one thing, and do something about another”. Says as Tourism Minister he has a duty.

[Disclaimer: this does not represent every single statement made, and is not fully inclusive. All coverage is unofficial, and does not reflect official statements issued by the MPs]

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Comments (14)

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  1. Sandra Burrowes says:

    Incredible coverage, Bernews. What a community service. Many thanks.

  2. M.O.G. says:

    This site is amazing…… Your coverage is wonderful.

  3. Anne says:

    I think this is the best news reporting Bermuda has ever seen !!!!

  4. Sharee says:

    Love the coverage, love what you guys are doing, again best coverage I’ve seen. I’m off the island on vacation and glad that I’m still able to keep up. Thanks guys

  5. bernews says:

    Thanks all, much appreciated!

  6. Burrows says:

    Great coverage, I like the way the daily never updated during a debate before, and then just suddenly this evening starts trying to do the same thing here is hours later.

    The whole debate is a waste of time and taxpayer money. We have a big gang fight, shootings left right and center and the Government is tossin about gaming.

  7. Richardson says:

    Your coverarge is refreshing! In reading your blogs, I am so very Pleased with the UBP position prior to the debate. I am also Happy with the PLP members and Mr. Hunt being honest with the negative effects of gambling for Bermuda. Mr. Pettingil blatant disrespect for the churches definately won’t get my family to vote BDA! Not surprised by Mr. Crockwell supoort. The BDA is full of opportunists. They are dishonest, got to the house under one banner and now waving another DON’T TRUST ANY THEM. COME ON 5 CABINET OFFICERS DON’T SUPPORT THIS WHY ARE THEY DEBATING THIS?

  8. C.J says:

    Just love my Bermnews! I agree with “Burrows & Richardson” … I gamble when I am away and love it, BUT don’t want it in my backyard. I over eat and am overweight and if gambling was accessible I would probably be addicted to that 2. If Pettingill don’t respect the Church, how can he respect YOU? Mr. Hunt, I admire your stance; don’t let them hoodwink you to becoming disrespectful. A man was killed last night, and this is what our government think is important to discuss? Give me a break? Blakeney, DeSilva and Butterfield will say how high when asked to JUMP, no suprised there.

  9. M Cooper says:

    Kudos to the Bernews team on a job well done. Petingell has lost my vote and many others, the Churches are standing up for what is right and speaking for those that have no voice.