*iStock photo
*iStock photo

Government MPs will be ordered to vote in favour of new laws to introduce casino gaming to Bermuda.

And those who defy the ‘three-line whip’ when the legislation comes before the House of Assembly later this year could face disciplinary action by the party.

The move has been branded ‘undemocratic’ by a former leader of the UBP.

A government spokesperson yesterday confirmed OBA MPs would face a three-line whip at the upcoming parliamentary vote to bring in Singapore-style gaming here.

And Tourism Minister, Shawn Crockwell, told the Bermuda Sun: “I can reiterate that the Cabinet and Parliamentary group of Government are fully in support of introducing casino gaming as proposed.”

But former UBP leader Kim Swan branded the move undemocratic “result fixing”.

He took to the Bermuda Election 2012 Facebook site to state: “Parliamentary fixed odds. If the OBA Gov’t plan to enforce the three-line whip on the casino gaming debate, having already withdrawn the Referendum Bill they tabled, their action would amount to result fixing, not democracy.

“What a travesty for the people of Bermuda.”

A three-line whip is an instruction given to MPs by the leaders of their party telling them they must vote the way that the party wants them to on a particular subject.

Under the UK’s Westminster system, breach of a three-line whip can lead to suspension or even expulsion from a party in extreme circumstances.

PLP MP and political commentator Walton Brown told the Bermuda Sun that it was not unusual for Governments to impose a three-line whip for legislation that was considered vitally important.

He said: “The three-line whip has always been used when the Government wants to get a critical piece of legislation through.

Desperate to get it approved

“I’m sure the PLP used it in its last couple of years in power. The OBA clearly wants to have the gaming legislation approved.

“I can only assume that they have had a rigorous debate internally and they have come to this position. The legislative framework allows for that and if the OBA has had that discussion that is the way to move forward.”

Mr Brown added: “There are some members of their side that have strong views against gaming.

“So the question is, have they already expressed those opinions and come to accept the overall decision or will their position be revealed on the floor?”

Jonathan Starling, who recently started a petition for a referendum on the gaming question, claimed that Government’s handling of the issue of gambling had verged on farcical.

He added: “The OBA’s decision to use a three-line whip to force their vision of casino gambling is unfortunate.

“They have gone from a commitment to democracy by way of a referendum, to a loaded referendum question, to abandoning a referendum with questionable reasons for doing so to now ramming this through via a three-line whip.

“It’s disappointing and, quite frankly, an affront to any commitment to genuine democracy in my mind. It also indicates to me that the OBA are not united on this issue and that they felt it necessary to ensure MPs toe the line of the Premier, Shawn Crockwell and Marc Pettingill.”