As a U.S. company studies the feasibility of gaming in Bermuda, factions are squaring off on both sides of the issue. Those in favor of legalization include Premier Ewart Brown and island hotel owners. The opposed include church groups like the Seventh Day Adventists and the Muslims, who issued a statement calling gambling not just “criminal and immoral” but “an incredibly stupid pastime.”
The Innovation Group is conducting a $300,000 study-funded in part by the hotel industry-on the potential impact of gaming on the island’s deflated tourism industry, including probable tax benefits and possible social repercussions.
Accused by opponents of having a bias in favor of gaming, Innovation President Stephen Szapor said the company has no stake in the issue because its fee does not depend on the outcome.
“If we were just rubber-stamping,” Szapor told the Royal Gazette, “we would be out of business. We have no ax to grind.”
Company Vice President Matthew Landry backed that claim by referencing the group’s recent survey on expanded gaming in California. In that case, Innovation concluded that the market is already saturated.
“It’s not ‘pro versus anti,'” Landry said. “It’s, ‘Is this going to boost tourism?'”
The study will also assess the possibility of a lottery and internet gaming in Bermuda.
Though the study was not completed until the end of March, Landry has already tipped his hand somewhat by pointing to the success of gaming in another island nation.
“If you take a look at the Bahamas, a lot of the incentives put in place to develop Atlantis are a positive thing that’s really helped that country,” he said.
The Muslim community, however, remains adamantly opposed. A statement from Masjid Quba, one of Bermuda’s two mosques, says its stance “is reflective of the majority of people in Bermuda. We would like to commend Premier Dr. Ewart Brown on his work to seek potential employment opportunities for the people of Bermuda during these tough economic times; however, we feel the risks outweigh the potential benefits… Economically, gambling tends to redistribute money from the working class to the wealthy.”
Hoteliers have been lobbying for years to bring casinos to Bermuda. They are joined in their support by former Premier Sir John Swan and Chamber of Commerce head Philip Barnett.