The developer of Morgan’s Point (aka Naval Annex) has pleaded that Bermuda needs to make up its mind about gambling. Indeed.
The OBA have said that Bermuda will have a referendum (and that in itself will require more energy than our Government is used to exerting). I have written previously that “gaming” has many facets, and we need a vision from Government as to what they seek to allow and what we want to achieve from it. It can’t be a free for all.
But even if a referendum passes, there’s much work to be done. We need proper laws and regulations to be written (did you know that our existing Betting Act does not even touch the subject of fairness/odds setting? The only stipulation for conduct of a bookmaker is that should not serve intoxicating liquor.) And a regulator needs to be built up. And that’s before the first casino is built, slot machine installed, or employee trained.
To give an idea, Malta requires a team of 60 people to oversee their gambling sector, which covers
- Amusement Machines,
- Casino Gaming,
- Commercial Bingo Games,
- Commercial Communication games,
- Gaming Devices,
- Remote Gaming,
- Sports Betting,
- the National lottery and other lotteries,
- Non-Profit Games.
Each of those areas has three tiers of Government oversight (legislation, directives, and technical standards). Malta has a population about 8 times bigger than Bermuda, and a much larger tourism sector. There are four casinos on the island. Gambling taxes produced about $45 million euro for their government coffers last year.
Gambling is a business as sophisticated as insurance. We’re kidding ourselves if we think we can enter it without laying the groundwork properly. If we implement gambling poorly, it will undermine everything that Bermuda has built up in terms of reputation in the financial sector … and it may become a haven for crooks and money launderers, as well as a focal point for local frustration. In short, gambling must be done properly.
(Also, it’s funny that there’s been no local coverage of the fact that New York State is holding a referendum in November seeking to legalise casino gambling off Native American reservation lands. You’d think it might be relevant.)