Packed house: A large crowd turned up at Penno’s Wharf to hear more about Government’s casino proposal. *Photo by Mikaela Ian Pearman

Having casinos in Bermuda could bring 43,000 new tourists to the island per year who would normally travel to the Bahamas instead.

And in order to protect the vulnerable, Bermudians on financial assistance, those who live in public housing and those in arrears in child support would be excluded from gambling.

Speaking to a packed crowd at Penno’s Wharf in St George’s, Tourism Minister Shawn Crockwell delivered a PowerPoint presentation in an effort to educate the public about the benefits of gambling.

It was the first of a six town hall meetings about having casinos in Bermuda.

Mr Crockwell said the target markets would be where Bermuda mainly already draws tourists from: Miami, New York and Boston.

“We have an opportunity to try and entice people to come to Bermuda instead of going to the Bahamas.”

Mr Crockwell pointed out Bermuda is closer to New York and Boston than the Bahamas is.

“We believe we can get an increase in tourism for 2016 if the integrated gaming model comes to Bermuda.

“There could be 43,000 new tourists to the island just because we have a quality integrated resort with a quality casino.”

Mr Crockwell said locals would be able to participate in gaming but there would be exclusions to help lesson the social ill problems it might cause.

He proposed that no one under 21 be allowed to enter the casinos and there would be a $100 charge to get in.

Mr Crocwell said in Singapore there are a string of exclusions barring people from gambling.

“If you’re on financial assistance, you will be excluded. If you’re receiving public housing, you will be excluded. If you’re bankrupt, you will be excluded. If you’re significantly in arrears on child support, you will be excluded. 

“We can come up with categories to ensure that individuals who have no business in the casino aren’t in the casino.”

Mr Crockwell said in order for the integrated gaming model to work, a major hotel development needs to happen and said the old Club Med site could be ideal for it.

“We need to get some global brands to Bermuda — high end brands — if we want to be competitive.

“We believe that with the integrated resort model, that would be the closest to get hotel development, bring in a quality brand and revitalizing tourism.”

Mr Crockwell said seven developers have expressed interest at the old Club Med site.

“The intention is to encourage new hotel development. We need to get a hotel in St George’s and that is the focus on the government.

“If we do that, we will see tax revenue as a result. The revenue would be used for a gaming commission.

“There has to be a body that’s going to regulate this.”

Mr Crockwell said within the integrated resort model, there would be restaurants, bars, shops, entertainment, convention centres, theatres, pool, golf courses and spas. Speaking on potential jobs, the minister said the jobs would be of a wide variety.

“It’s not just about table operators and dealers. It’s a host of job opportunities in introducing this new industry.”

He also said if there was a major development, there could be up to 1,113 jobs in the construction industry and up to 913 in casino jobs.

Mr Crockwell said in a report by the Innovation Group, it was recommended that no more than three casino gaming licences be granted. One of the licences will be reserved for a major hotel development.

Speaking on the revenue, Mr Crockwell said the predictions for the first year was $50 million, increasing to $60 million by year three.

He also said the proposed tax would be ten per cent.

“Based on this forecast, we would be by year three — just on gaming — the government would make around $6 million on tax revenue. This doesn’t include hotel tax and payroll tax.”