Opinion: Tony Brannon On Gambling & Tourism

July 5, 2013

[Written by Tony Brannon]

The future of Bermuda is squarely in the hands of Government and allowing private enterprise to compete. For 30 years the collective efforts of UBP/PLP/BIU have proven how to “Deep Six” the tourism business here. Gone are the days when Bermuda was a market leader. But there is light at the end of the tunnel. Now that Bermuda and Bermudians are on their knees, largely self-inflicted, we can rise from the ashes, but only if the politicians “do the right things”.

A cruise line has stated that if they are allowed to having gaming in port they will stay forever! Therein also lies what was not said…no gaming in port and we just might say “check ya later”. No doubt the mega ships deserve to have their passengers catered to and that includes gaming in port, but Bermuda must allow on-island hotels to compete on an even playing field. The fact that we are already in July 2013 and this has not been actioned by our MPs is shocking.

Pass resort gaming legislation for resort hotels and cruise ships. I would also caution that stand alone casinos are not the way to go in Bermuda and will fail. Resort hotels need to offer the amenity of gaming for their guests scaled to the number of rooms. Small hotel properties should have slots whilst the large resorts offer all games, but again scaled to Bermuda. One only needs to see the competition like Aruba’s Hyatt or Marriott or St. Kitt’s Marriott.

Everyday the politicians delay a decision on this is a day of further economic stress for Bermuda tourism, and delay in investment in places like Morgan’s Point etc.

Bermudians need to chase their politicians to lead and get this done. Cupmatch is coming, gambling online gaming (Bermuda missed this huge revenue stream), off track betting, church bingo. It’s all here now !

The millions lost in hotel closures in the past 30 years seems to elude the powers that be. It’s been such a long slow death that people have become immune. Politicians are guided by fear of church votes, whilst jobs are lost and now International Business has drastically declined in terms of numbers of employees. We have seen all manner of local businesses fall into debt and local landlords left stuck with empty apartments. We have engineered the perfect economic storm.

It will take bold leadership. Bermuda can no longer wait. Hamilton is a ghost town, no cruise ships.and St.George’s is in deeper trouble. Many restaurants are sucking air all over town, and one can only presume more fallout with business closures will be upon us this winter. The biggest gamble and biggest losing bet played so far has been the “Politicians of Bermuda” in failing to lead and putting Bermuda back on top in the tourism world.

Get cracking OBA /PLP!

- Tony Brannon has been involved in the entertainment industry for many years, and has been a vocal proponent of gaming.

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Comments (48)

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  1. ABM says:

    I think there in lies the problem, there is no one currently in government who is a “bold leader”.

    • DarkSideofTheMoon says:

      None on either side.

      • yesman says:

        And that’s the truth. Somehow Bermuda still needs to adapt to fit the new 2013 climate. Our product has not changed in many years and it’s time we make change. We won’t know if gambling will have a boost unless we embrace it.

        The decision of doing nothing isn’t going to help either.

        • Black Soil says:

          So is brother Tony going to join the TA? I’m not sure if they could tame this wild horse. Or does tourism need a few “wild horse” to jump start our flagging tourist trade.

    • Maple spliff says:

      Stick to dad rock Tony. John Lennon’s buddy? Yeah course you were mate.

    • Chingas Bye says:

      But nobody needs to be a bold leader!? They just need to give us “the people” the opportunity to make up our own mind and vote thru a referendum!

  2. Truth is killin' me... says:

    FLIP FLOPPERS…THE LOT OF ‘EM!!!!!!!!!!

  3. Truth is killin' me... says:

    Tony Brannon…I’ll tell you why it always takes politicians on this island soooo long to do anything. Be it PLP or UBP or OBA, they are all scheming to see if they can get a “bit of the action for themselves” and in the long run all it does is hurt the island as a whole!

    • Time Shall Tell says:

      ouch…..

    • smokey says:

      How true,think back to that trip abroad by OBA MPs to Hoteliers in the USA. It was all about gaming, or they would never have summoned our MPs. Have not heard a thing about that meeting to date. We must be open to achieve success.Open to the people of Bermuda. Rather than treating Bermudians like immature uneducated people that cant articulate themselves ,is detrimental to this present gov position.

  4. Young Bermudian says:

    Gaming is not the silver bullet many make it out to be. I respect Mr. Brannon as an industry expert, but Bermuda is a unique island with a unique tourism structure. Where is the data that is supporting all of the evidence that gaming will be best for Bermuda? My response is long, but there are serious angles and substantiation that industry and government need to consider and present before telling the public “this is the way to go.”

    One must understand history so that we can make wise decisions in the present and for the future. What is the reason that gaming has not allowed on our shores? And once those reasons are identified, are we as Bermudians ready or have the resources to address those concerns. For instance, we know that the island struggles with resourcing and accessibility to addiction services. Are we prepared to address potential gaming addicts as well. Are we going to be like Bahamas and discriminate by only allowing foreigners to gamble?

    Speaking of Bahamas, their flag ship hotel that has casinos, the Atlantis has been struggling financially and is on the brink of bankruptcy….why is this?

    Many use the Monte Carlo experience as one that Bermuda should look at. But Monte Carlo isn’t in the middle of nowhere. MC’s target visitor is already in the Mediteranian and live on nearby islands and main shores which makes a trip to Monte Carlo by sea very inexpensive.

    Give me some real

    • Bermyman says:

      Atlantis is nearly bankrupt because of the size of the resort and the high costs in operating such a large, elementally exposed site. I can assure you that gaming resorts in Las vegas or the Bahamas that bring in quality tourist clientele are not hurting. Gaming revenues equate to approx 1/3 and upwards of total revenues for resorts. In Bermuda, everything from food to electricity is more expensive for a hotel operator when compared to similar jurisdictions. You will not get sufficient hotel investment to the level that is needed unless you allow hotel developers the ability to make additional revenues through gaming.

      More of an issue is the high cost of electricity and the uncontrollable way that electricity bills continue to rise, year in and year out. As a fixed cost for any business, this is a nightmare. You could be faced with anywhere between a 5-20% rise in your energy bill within the next year. How can a hotel operator plan and budget effectively while working to keep pricing affordable? Likewise how can a business who takes up a large energy footprint do the same!? There are exempt companies who spend over $1m on electricity per annum, think of that in terms of hiring additional people or just plain seeing Bermuda as an affordable place to do business.

      Addiction is everywhere in the modern world and Bermuda is no different nor is it immune. Casino’s in Bermuda could be managed by making it exclusive to Hotel guests or selling membership programmes to the public.

      We have to think about the future and the jobs that could well be provided by having several fully functioning Hotels on the Island. But we keep facilitating the barriers which prevent this from happening.

      • Young Bermudian says:

        Bermyman,

        I appreciate your thought out reply. You answered my question about Atlantis, but I’m sure you will agree that there are a lot more questions that should be explored and hashed out in public domain.

        The addiciton piece, even though found everywhere in the modern world will be exponential here because of our small size and limited ability to manage it (as it is we outsource much of our specialized healthcare and our mental health resources are already underfunded and staffed.)and the crime that could be a result.

        What does the research say in regards to target and nontarget tourists coming to Bermuda because of gambling. Will we pilot it? We can’t just have decisions without solid evidence.

      • frank says:

        the government is snalling on this they need to pass this bill before the house closes for the summer or we can kiss tourisum good bye and there will be no cruise ships simple

    • yesman says:

      @Young Bermudian. There was a green paper produced by the Bermuda Government and that analyzed gambling in Bermuda during Dr. Brown’s time in office. It would have all the data that you are looking for. We need to focus on tourism once again because we are currently feeling the impact of focusing only on one industry that being International Business which is not as fruitful as it once was.

      Although gaming might not be a silver bullet, it would sure help to boost our failing tourism industry as we are not even a player anymore.

      • Young Bermudian says:

        I read the green paper and it was lacking in the statistical and research analysis that would be applicable to a jurisdiction like ours. It also did not present various scenarios for consideration and project postives and negatives. I personally think that green papers should be balanced and provoke thought. Those that were pro/anti gaming were not, IMO presented with meaningful situations to chew and digest on. This PWC report is much more neutral in exploring the pros and cons gaming jurisdictions should be aware of http://www.pwc.com/en_GX/gx/entertainment-media/publications/assets/pdf/global-gaming-outlook.pdf

        I have not made up my mind about gaming, but the impacts (positive and negative) need to be clearly laid out and discussed. Currently that is not happening and sadly policy decisions in our country seem too be emotive and reactionary instead of innovative and strategized.

    • DarkSideofTheMoon says:

      Have you taken the time to ask the right people these questions or done your own research and have not found any answers, or are you just asking rhetorical questions for the benefit of this new story?

      • Young Bermudian says:

        I’ve done research for my personal gain, but any national policy or legislation change should have these types of questions explored in an open forum, and to date this has not been done for gaming. When our leaders make decisions that should be well thought out and data driven so that a clear benefit to the whole is likely.

    • Amazed says:

      You make some very valid points. I would add that our target air visitors have never indicated a desire for gambling. We have conducted many exit surveys and my understanding is that the air visitors were always against it. While I would upport allowing the cruise ships to open their casinos in port I dont see how it would be possible for more that one hotel to profit from gambling. I think it would be better to have it located on an island which would require a boat to get to and it would become a unique experience run by the country for the benifit of the country.

      • Triangle Drifter says:

        An island! Needs to be easily accessible. How about Whites Island? Oh…gosh …..I almost forgot. The PLP gave it away to one of their cronies. Oh Dear. So much for that idea.

        Just can’t wake up from that PLP nightmare

      • Chingas Bye says:

        Perhaps that is true, but the ones that can’t answer YES to that question are the ones that have chosen to elsewhere on vacation because Bermuda does not have casinos.

        Remember, a visitor does not have to gamble when staying at a Casino property, my wife does not when we go to Vegas. However, she joins me because we can go to shows, concerts and restaurants that feed off of the casinos.

        I think the idea of a Casino on an island is great in theory (in the Summer) but we all know what it is like here at times in the winter – windy and rainy. Who wants to wait in the cold, wind and rain for a rough boat ride that might be dangerous or make them seasick? Most will not make that trip, just to gamble if you make the location inconvenient or remote.

  5. Bermuda Boy says:

    We go to Atlantic City & Vegas a lot. I can assure you we will not be gambling here unless it is run like it is in the states, not like it is down the islands. Give a licence to the hotels and only allow locals to use the casino if they are a hotel guest. Want to play, get a hotel room for the night or a weekend. That way only those that can afford it will be effected.

    • Chingas Bye says:

      So if my friends and family come to visit and stay at my house or a guest house, they cant go to the Casino unless they pay for a room that they won’t use?

  6. Tired says:

    The old fashioned thinking has got to stop. When our young people take over this island, it will be a Bermuda that none of us envisioned. If you want to make a better Bermuda, you have to start competing with the rest of the world. Make gaming legal for the tourists. You old timed politicians need to get your heads out of the sand.

  7. Nanny Pat says:

    We didn’t have gaming back in the hey day when tourism was booming. Why do we need it now? I fear that gaming will cheapen our product and make us just another island like so many to our south. Why not bring back updated versions of what made us so popular back in the day? Live music? Class acts? We aren’t a cheap, spring break kind of a place. We need to cater to those that have the resources to travel here. Those are often the very people that are put off by gaming.

    • Billy Mays says:

      Nanny Pat, you’re wrong that the more well-heeled are put off by gaming. Go to Las Vegas and you’ll see that there are massive numbers of well to do visitors at the tables… and in the restaurants, shows, shops, golf courses, etc.

  8. Ride says:

    I think allowing gambling is a good idea. However I have a few concerns.

    How will gambling address the cost and quality of the Bermuda tourism product? That is, will it reduce the cost of flights to the island or hotel rooms/guest houses? Will it increase the quality of hotel rooms/guest houses? Will it decrease the cost of services (meals, transportation, refreshments, watersports, …)? Will it improve the quality of service (just yesterday I heard a tourist exit a business and complain how “mean” the staff were)? And so on.

    I think Bermuda, in general, is overpriced for the product offered. The driving factor of this is the cost of living ($5 for a loaf of bread, high price of kilowatt/hrs, … ). Something must be done to stall or reduce the cost of living here if we are serious about this tourism product. Actually it baffles the mind how grocers can continue seeing increased revenue quarter after quarter with an ever decreasing population and ever increasing unemployment; but that is another topic.

    When you have to pay $5 for a loaf of bread and $6 for a pound of cheddar cheese then the lower limit of the both the wage a server earns and the price paid for a cheese sandwich is much higher than our tourism competitors. The server needs a livable wage. Granted that they won’t be refreshing their wardrobe every season and driving the flashest car. However, they need to be able feed themselves and their family, and be able purchase some new kit on occasion. So the business has to not only buy the $11 of sandwich ingredients but also pay its server such that they can purchase the ingredients as well.

    Gaming would be nice. But it is not going to fix our tourism product. I think, first, Bermuda needs to fix the product before adding additional parameters into the model.

    * Get operating cost down. Reduce the cost of living and the cost of services can be reduced.

    * Get the prudish “church” out of the decision making process. Why can’t people wear thongs to the beach if they want? Why are stores forced to close on Sundays and Christan holidays? Why can’t alcohol be purchased on Sunday’s and Christian holidays? …

    * Fix the recreational logistics. Why do you have to walk a mile to purchase refreshments at beaches? Why do most beaches not have a refreshments available for purchase? Why isn’t the increase in rubbish in the sand at beaches being addressed? …

    These are just a start to Bermuda getting serious.

    Ride

    • Maple spliff says:

      Agree ride, what has the church got to do with chancing your cash on odds?

      Meddling god squad, please leave us alone. We will end up with dozens of churches and no tourists.

  9. SoMuchMore says:

    if we don’t move with the times, we’re going to be left behind. no wait, we’re in that position now smh.

    as i have said before, let the ships open their casinos. bermuda has to invest nothing and it is only for a few nights per night.

    come’on the ships are overnighting here and have been committed to bermuda for many years and just as holland done the others could soon follow.

    make the right decision now while its not to late.

    • smokey says:

      Bermudians problems are with personal greed both personal and governmental. That’s why we are in the situation we are in presently.To much put on materialistic gain of citizens and less on constructive creative ideas by citizens to improve all Bermudians status.Still in the age of the have and the have nots, what a shame.We shall reep what we sow.

  10. The Fact says:

    Gaming may not be the “end all” nor the “silver bullet” BUT it is an option. All the people against it don’t provide alternatives and if they do, it’s already been tried.

    JUST DO IT. If it doesn’t work, then we go back to the drawing boards. If we don’t do it, then we continue down this path to tourism’s death.

    Gambling is a choice. Just like, drinking every Friday, buying the new IPhone, buying True Religion Jeans and not paying your bills. You choose to do these things. So if you choose to gamle, thats your choice and fortunately in Bermuda, we have the right to choose. Just not on gambling unless you go on line or play bingo or crown n anchor.

    Just saying.

  11. Triangle Drifter says:

    All so true Tony, so true. No, gaming will not be the devine saviour but not allowing it could very well be the final nail in the tourism coffin.

    Sure there need to be restrictions. No locals, unless staying at the hotel. Open nights only so as not to take away from daytime attractions.

  12. d.o. says:

    Make it happen. If you dont likeit dont participate but dont tell me or others what to do Triple negative with apologies.

  13. media says:

    I am disappointed and concerned that the OBA has decided to put this issue to a Referendum, although I can understand why they are doing it from a politcal point of view. With the slim majority they hold the very voters that helped give them the win are those same people that would vote against gaming in Bermuda. If the OBA were to go ahead and just allow gaming they would no doubt alienate some of those voters and lose support the next time around. The PLP were in a worse situation in that regard hence the reason they danced around the issue and never pushed it forward.

    If gaming fails at the Referendum, Tourism will have no real future in Bermuda and we can only blame ourselve. It is a vital and key part of making Tourism a profitable business once again in Bermuda. Without it no new hotel will be built.

  14. Verbal Kint says:

    I have nothing against gaming on moral grounds, and I think it may be the trigger to get a new property built. I also think that down the road it will do little more than produce another Club Med to be blown up by a subsequent administration. Gaming establishments everywhere are struggling, and this is much too expensive a destination to attract a large number of gamblers. I think it is a premise doomed to fail in the long run. But that’s just my opinion. The Greens are willing to invest in properties without the stimulus of a gaming environment, or do they know something the rest of us don’t know?

  15. HeyBye says:

    Bda’s hey day is over.In that day,half the world was closed off because of communism and air travel was regulated and expensive.
    With the fall of communist states and and the up start of discount airlines the world has opened up to tourism,killing Bda at it’s own game.
    We need to reinvent ourselves and use gaming and entertainment as PART of the reinvention.

    We need to follow the Monte Carlo model,keep it classy and controlled unlike what you see in the States.

  16. BdaYyx says:

    Certainly agree with Tony that a casino is not likely the answer. Better to spread out to many venues – hotels on a pro rata basis, the cruise ships themselves, possibly elsewhere (Dockyards?). Agree in principle to do something, then work out some details, start slowly and modify course to suit experience.

    • Verbal Kint says:

      Sorry, but to “start slowly and modify course” is a recipe for disaster. Regulation has got to be bulletproof or you are flirting with a complete governmental c@ckup.

  17. DarkSideofTheMoon says:

    Allow gaming in hotels like he said. Make it so that if you want to cash in your winnings you need to show proof that you are a hotel guest. Gaming should be for hotels guests as an amenity like the pool or a private beach.

    Addicts? According to http://www.citizenlink.com/2010/06/14/frequently-asked-questions-gambling-in-the-united-states/ here are some statistics

    Q: How many people in the United States experience gambling addiction?
    A: The National Gambling Impact Study Commission collected data from a Harvard Medical School meta-analysis to arrive at the following estimates:
    • Between 15 to 20 million adults and adolescents have either problem or pathological gambling addictions, which is about 5-7 percent of the U.S. population (2000).
    • 7.5 million American adults have a problem or pathological gambling addiction (5.3 million problem gamblers and 2.2 million pathological gamblers)
    • About six percent of adult gamblers evidence negative consequences of gambling addiction
    • 7.9 million American adolescents (illegal, underage) have a problem or pathological addiction to gambling (5.7 million problem gamblers and 2.2 million pathological gamblers)
    • Interesting Fact: If you take 15 million people and place them in average-sized NFL Football stadiums that hold about 70,000 people, you could fill approximately 214 stadiums to capacity with problem and pathological gamblers in the U.S. alone!

    So to summarize on the high end 7% of the US population are addicted to gambling and of that 6% are affected negatively by gambling. So if Bermuda follows that trend out of a population of 65,000, 273 people might be affected negatively or 0.42% of the population. And if you restrict gambling to hotel patrons that figure drops tremendously. So, stop using the addiction excuse.

    • smokey says:

      The USA exports products alongside tourism and other money making ventures. How can you compare their gaming industry to us.apples and oranges.

  18. Verbal Kint says:

    My REAL problem with this argument is this– The Government has proven itself incapable of managing a hospital or a taxi fleet or a ferry service (just for starters). A Government incapable of managing those basic functions should not be allowed anywhere near the regulation of an industry with as many potential pitfalls as the gambling industry. Improperly managed gaming will do nothing for the quality of life here. It will only enrich a small few, leave behind its problems, and provide another cautionary tale for future investors. That, to me, makes gambling too big a “gamble”.

  19. Miguelito says:

    Please allow cruise ships to operate their own casinos while in port. It’s their casino, their guests. Cruise passengers should be allowed to do as they like while aboard. Ours is a ridiculous restriction. Let’s keep the cruise lines happy and coming back to Bermuda.

    • Time Shall Tell says:

      This isn’t a rule unique to Bermuda, it’s in place at many other destinations. I know Barbados was also considering allowing port gambling a few years ago but I don’t know what the outcome of that was.

  20. Ben Dover says:

    Tony, you know more about tourism than most do in Bermuda. I’ll give you the cruise ships opening in port. That is a no brainer. Casinos in Bermuda? No. I don’t miss the “back room” at the Beach. That was downright depressing. Or the three machines in the little room at the Squire. Or that crummy “casino” on Reid Street.

    Try Googl’ing Kings Casino in Antigua. Closed up tighter than Stanford’s bank accounts. That would be the Bermuda casinos in a couple of years.

  21. Ben Dover says:

    Sorry, Kings is the crummy one in town. Grand Princess is the big one in Jolly Harbor that boarded up.

  22. smokey says:

    Mr. Brannon you are 100% right . Some sort of taxation can help in sports,education etc. But this place Bermuda was once called the pearl in the atlantic. Today its gone back to the isle of devils.(economically)

  23. Triangle Drifter says:

    Open them aboard ship & land at night only. Gaming is more of a night activity anyway.

    One day last week I drove through Missoula, Montana. Casinos all over the place. Not like Vegas at all. Much smaller. Many only have slots. Mid afternoon & the carparks were virtually empty.

  24. Truth is killin' me... says:

    In good times people will gamble, in tough economic times the pay bills and try to survive!