Premier Cannonier told us last night: “Since the announcement, we have already had new interest from potential investors, pending an operator or gaming licence.”
Premier Cannonier told us last night: “Since the announcement, we have already had new interest from potential investors, pending an operator or gaming licence.”

A controversial decision to renege on a promise to hold a gambling referendum has already drawn new business interest to the island, according to the Premier.

Craig Cannonier told us last night: “Since the announcement, we have already had new interest from potential investors, pending an operator or gaming licence.”

He also said a gaming bill would be tabled “as early as possible in the New Year” following a “public consultation campaign” with town hall meetings.

When asked, Mr Cannonier said “there is no evidence to suggest” public confidence in Government had been knocked by Friday’s announcement: “We took a decision to protect jobs... This matter is too important for political games.”

But as the row escalated, politics got more personal yesterday...


The Premier and Leader of the Opposition appear to be locked in a stare down over gaming, as accusations fly thick and fast.

Conflict over the Government’s decision to axe a public referendum on casinos escalated into a potential ‘lose-lose’ situation, with both leaders taking a gamble on each other’s reputation.

There are claims of subterfuge on both sides, in a row that shows few signs of abating any time soon.

In a statement yesterday, Opposition Leader Marc Bean claimed the following:

March: In the House of Assembly he stated if Government gave up a referendum, the PLP would “not make an issue of the decision”.

September: In a meeting with Mr Bean, the Premier proposed avoiding a referendum and for both parties to issue a joint statement. Mr Bean said his party’s caucus rejected this, in favour of upholding “respective election promises to provide a referendum”.

November 29: Government tables the Referendum Act 2013, with the question: “Do you favour the introduction of regulated casino gaming for the purposes of creating new jobs for Bermudians and encouraging hotel development?”.

Critics, including the PLP, say the question is “loaded”.

December 7: Mr Bean reached out to Tourism Minister Shawn Crockwell, via Shadow Minister Wayne Furbert, to ask Government to amend the referendum bill in favour of “a neutral question”.

He claims Mr Crockwell had not been told of the September meetings and proposal by Mr Cannonier.

December 10: Mr Bean says Shadow Finance Minister David Burt reports OBA insiders claiming the Opposition Leader and Mr Cannonier have “struck a deal to avoid the referendum”.  Mr Burt also claims the Premier asked him “to have the PLP join with the OBA and avoid the referendum”. Mr Burt “repeated the PLP position of amending the question” to Mr Cannonier.

December 11: Mr Bean claimed the Premier called him and “instantly suggested that we jointly avoid the gaming referendum”. Mr Bean reiterated his party’s stance of amending the referendum question in favour of a “neutral one”.

Friday: The Premier carried over the referendum bill in the House and then told the media the public referendum — a pre-election promise — will be scrapped. Instead, gaming will be decided by a vote by MPs.

Mr Bean said Mr Cannonier misled the public “by accusing the PLP of threatening to boycott the referendum and plotting the demise of Bermuda”.

The Premier’s statement on Friday read: “After conversations with members of the Opposition, it was made clear, very clear to us, that the referendum process will be undermined if we don’t meet (the Opposition’s) demands to change the wording of the question…

“It is clear to us that the Opposition’s political ambitions have moved ahead of the people’s business, and that the threat to disrupt the referendum or have a boycott is real…”

The Premier last night declined to add to the statement or to respond to Mr Bean’s claims. 

Acting Opposition Leader Derrick Burgess has accused Mr Cannonier of “attempting to shift the blame for a decision they made onto the PLP. At NO time have the PLP advocated a boycott of the referendum. To say otherwise is a boldfaced lie.”

Yesterday: Mr Cannonier said claims by PLP Senator Marc Daniels on VSB TV, that he recorded a conversation with Mr Bean last week over the referendum, were “absolutely false”.