In 1998 the PLP inherited an outdated, outmoded tourism product, a failed marketing strategy and an industry in decline.

To combat this we created incentives for hotels to update their facilities, fought for lower airfares, attracted new investors in hotel development and introduced an innovative and aggressive marketing approach. Despite these efforts, we must do more to make Bermuda competitive again.

Though uncomfortable and often unwanted, change is a part of growth and tourism in Bermuda is at a crossroads.

On one hand we can continue to do what we have always done with a few minor alterations and hope for the best, or we can recognise the need for change.

If Bermuda is to have any future as a player in the world's tourism economy, a mature conversation on gaming must occur. Bermudians have many views on the subject and we want to ensure every voice is heard, every fear is addressed and every constructive criticism weighed.

To do this, we established in 2009 a task force on gaming that, in partnership with our consultants, the Innovation Group, studied the potential impact of gaming on Bermuda and launched a series of public meetings to gain public feedback.

At the conclusion of the study, the task force recommended:

* That some form of casino gaming be permitted in Bermuda.

* That a suitable site in Hamilton be recommended for the proposed casino.

Centrally located it would offer accessibility for visitors and residents alike.

* That the casino be privately owned and operated.

* That no restriction be placed on Bermudian participation.

* That casino opening hours would mirror existing nightclub liquor licensing laws.

In some jurisdictions casinos operate 24 hours per day but we believe this is neither appropriate nor suitable for Bermuda.

* That the various pieces of legislation currently governing gaming in Bermuda be incorporated under one omnibus piece of legislation.

* That a 10 per cent gross revenue tax be levied on a casino.

* That an advanced social services safety net be adapted to address the potential negative effects of gaming.

* That as many as 3,000 new jobs and up to $146 million could be added to our economy.

Gaming has the potential to create jobs for Bermudians, create opportunities for local business and generate a new revenue stream for our economy.

Benefits

Gaming by itself won't revitalise tourism but I see it as an added amenity - something we must offer to attract more visitors to our shores.

To quote one hotel executive who supports the introduction of gaming: "Hotels have bars and pools but not everyone drinks or swims. They are amenities."

While focusing the discussion on the perspective of energizing our tourism industry is useful, it only covers one aspect of its potential benefits.

The global recession has reinforced the need for a diversified economy and no country can afford to hope that their existing economic pillars will always remain standing.

We have a responsibility to examine opportunities for new revenue streams.

The potential of gaming in this regard cannot be ignored and old arguments against its introduction must be tempered with the realities of the global economy.

Singapore, for example enjoys a reputation as a stiff, heavily policed and well-regulated jurisdiction.

These are attributes that have made it attractive to international companies who value the excellent infrastructure and commitment to the rule of law. Sound familiar?

Faced with declining visitor numbers, Singapore has been forced to shift how it attracts visitors.

Its government has played a significant role in the implementation of gaming, ensuring that casinos are hardly noticeable and form part of what the jurisdiction terms "an integrated resort".

Singapore expects to boost its tourist arrivals by seven million people and its total tourism receipts to $21 billion. With information like this, I believe gaming is a win-win-win for Bermuda.

It's a win for job creation. It's a win for tourism and construction. It's a win for our tax base. It's a win for our economy.

I believe attitudes towards gaming in Bermuda are shifting.

Bermudians love to travel and have been exposed to gaming, whether on a cruise ship or in a casino at the various destinations they travel to.

Our people have been exposed to this activity, participate in this activity and many enjoy it.

Many of us have come to the conclusion that gaming is an acceptable form of entertainment for ourselves and others.

I believe this recognition will be reflected in our discussion on this issue. There will be naysayers who will argue we cannot and we should not. To them I say we can and we should.

To those who say this will take away our uniqueness, I say uniqueness is one thing but being uniquely out of touch is another.

Bermuda, the time has come for us to make up our minds as to what we want to be when we grow up as a country.