NEW YORK CITY, New York – As part of Travel Agent’s recent coverage of Caribbean Week in New York, we sat down with Shawn Crockwell, Bermuda’s minister of tourism development and transport, and learned that a public referendum will be held this fall to decide whether casino gaming would be permitted in the destination.
“As the tourism minister, it should be in my best interest to entertain the need to be competitive with islands in the South,” Crockwell told Travel Agent. “One of the areas we are lacking in if we want to compete is entertainment and we feel that casinos would help in that area.”
If approved, this will not be the destination’s only legal form of gaming, however, as Crockwell noted that sports gambling is currently allowed on the island.
Whenever an island, especially one where the church has a strong influence, wrestles with the decision to allow gambling, the question of whether to allow locals to gamble always presents a sticking point.
Crockwell told Travel Agent that Bermuda is looking into a licensing program to allow locals to gamble. Whereas Crockwell says it is not within the Bermuda Department of Tourism’s legal rights to prevent a local from gambling so long as it is legal in the destination, he did say that a system to monitor people’s gambling habits is being looked into. A license would be issued to those locals looking to gamble. Crockwell says locals will have to meet certain credit-related criteria to obtain a license.
“For example, if this person has a heavy mortgage on a home or owes a lot of money to the government, they would not get a license,” he says.
The license would also allow the government to track locals’ gambling patterns to make sure they are not betting above their means or getting in over their head.
But the issue of casino gaming in Bermuda is nothing new. The issue of casinos, in fact, has been debated in Bermuda since 2008, Crockwell says. The issue becamse a hot topic again last year when a bill was passed to allow the government to put forward referendums, such as the one to be voted on this fall, for public consideration.
“If my grandparents were here, they would say, ‘no,’ to casinos, but if my children were here, they would say, ‘yes.’ Casinos are definitely something that is more for the younger generation,” said Crockwell’s predecessor, Wayne L. Furbert, during an interview with Travel Agent last year.
Crockwell says another one of the main issues will be whether to allow standalone casinos or resort casinos, but he did say that he would like to personally see resort casinos to ensure a more high-class environment.
“We are looking for the type of place where people don't just pump coins into a slot machine all day long,” he says. “We are specifically looking to create a high-class, high-roller type of atmosphere with high stakes poker and other card games. We want a real Monte Carlo-type setting, a real classy environment.”