* MCT photo. Who’d cash in? Llewelyn Peniston says the public should benefit from the profits of a casino in Bermuda.
* MCT photo. Who’d cash in? Llewelyn Peniston says the public should benefit from the profits of a casino in Bermuda.
Any casino operating in Bermuda should be owned and operated by Government and openly accountable to the public.

Lawyer Llewelyn Peniston, a long-time advocate of gambling on the island, believes the only way to ensure the profits are used to the benefit of the people is for the public to own it.

He said Bermuda should follow the model of the Native Americans who operate casinos in the U.S. and carve up the profits between the "whole tribe".

The private model - recommended in the Government's green paper - does not offer any transparency or accountability in terms of how the profits are spent, Mr. Peniston warned.

He fears it would mean the proceeds would be concentrated into the hands of the same few entrepreneurs who have benefited from nearly every recent major project in Bermuda.

He said: "I am vehemently opposed to the private entity ownership that they have promoted and pushed with great energy.

"In my view it is a smash and grab exercise to put the profits that can be derived from a casino to the benefit of very few people.

"It has to be a public-private enterprise or a straight forward public enterprise."

Mr. Peniston said Government could sub-contract the running of a casino.

But he added: "The public should be shareholders and as such should be kept informed of how the profits are used.

"That money could be used in this community for a multitude of purposes - reduce taxation, build swimming pools, help social services and fund education.

"The accounts need to be published and the public and parliament kept updated on where the money is going.

"If it's a private company they are not obligated to show you anything."

Mr. Peniston said Native American tribes ran casinos along this model in the U.S.

He added: "The profits benefit the whole tribe - the children, the grandchildren, the great grandchildren. They go towards educational funds.

"We need a situation where Government has strong oversight to ensure it can derive the greatest share of profits for the benefit of the people."

He said the only solution was to have a publicly owned casino operated by the state or in conjunction with a private firm.

The green paper on gaming was released in March and is due to be debated by MPs at the next legislative session.

It includes a recommendation that a casino be built, preferably on Front Street, and ideally owned and operated by a private company.

The report, produced by the Innovation Group - a gaming industry consultant hired by the Government - recommends an open bidding process from private firms.