Malcolm Butterfield, chairman of the Tourism Board, said casinos would have to be considered. *iStock photo
Malcolm Butterfield, chairman of the Tourism Board, said casinos would have to be considered. *iStock photo
WEDNESDAY, APR. 27: Casino gambling is back on the agenda as key tourism figures meet to discuss the future of the industry.

The controversial issue will be up for discussion as the island’s new Tourism Board attempts to draw up a master plan to save tourism. About 30 industry

figureheads will meet at the Fairmont Hamilton Princess this weekend for a two-day retreat to thrash out the basis for the plan.

Malcolm Butterfield, chairman of the board, said nothing was off limits and casinos would have to be considered — despite being rejected by MPs only last year.

He said Bermuda has to focus on what visitors want and the best way to deliver it to them.

Maxwell Burgess, who is also on the board, said if the data showed that casinos are a priority for visitors, it would be foolish to ignore the issue.

“If they are asking for bread and you won’t build a bakery then you take that decision at your own peril.”

The Tourism Board says its plan will be determined by what visitors are asking for.

Mr Burgess added: “If your customer really wants the excellent spa, first class golf course, high-end dining, classy retail shopping and gaming rates lower on the list then should we be pushing it too hard?

“If casinos are down at number 10 on the list of visitors priorities that speaks for itself. You want to direct your focus in the right areas.”

But he warned that if casinos were a top priority for visitors then they should be a top priority for Bermuda.

“Bermuda will have some decision to make. If this is what your customer is asking for then you have to listen.”

Mr Butterfield said marketing guru Peter Yessawich, who is the facilitator for the weekends discussions, would arrive with a slew of up to date statistics and profiles on what modern tourists were looking for from Bermuda.

Invited guests

And he said the board and the invited guests, including representatives from the hotel industry, chamber of commerce and the Department of Tourism, would be given free rein to discuss what Bermuda’s priorities should be in a ‘closed’ two-day session.

“We aim to go everywhere irrespective of the sensitivity of the issues. The point of the retreat is that people can let their hair down and be very candid with their thoughts.”

In May last year MPs rejected a Green Paper on gaming tabled by then Premier Dr Ewart Brown. The paper was based on a study by overseas consultants Research Innovations that concluded casinos would attract tourists, promote development, create jobs and generate millions of dollars in tax revenue.

At the time MPs, including then Deputy Premier Paula Cox, spoke out against the issue and Dr Brown was left to conclude that the majority of MPs “have vehement opposition to gaming.”