*iStock photo
*iStock photo

PLP leader Marc Bean today upped the ante on the gambling debate — and called on Government to live up to its promise to hold a referendum on casinos as soon as possible.

He said: “The PLP believes that the issue of gaming must not only be moved forward immediately, but that the people, not the politicians, should decide.”

He added: “On a decision of this magnitude, democracy works best when the people have a say.”

Mr Bean said the arrival of thousands of cruise ship visitors on the massive Norwegian Breakaway and the Celebrity Summit had thrown the spotlight on the lack of amenities on the island.

He said: “When people go to a destination and they feel free… they will spend money.

“When you come to a jurisdiction which is stuffy and with very few amenities — that’s not going to suffice, not when you have other destinations which provide these goods and services the visitor likes.”

Mr Bean added: “Gaming will represent a dynamo shift in our tourism business model and brings with it numerous challenges as well as opportunities.”

Mr Bean said when the up to 6,000 tourists come off those two ships “they are of no value if they don’t spend their money”.

Mr Bean said he accepted that casinos on their own would not solve the problem of the island’s declining tourism industry — and that not all tourists would want to gamble.

He added: “Gaming is an amenity, it’s not a silver bullet to cure our tourism arrival numbers. But when you go to other destinations, gaming is an integral part of the market.

“We will have tourists who come to Bermuda who do not desire gambling — they will play golf or go to the spa.”

But he said that those who wanted to gamble should have facilities available.

Mr Bean said: “There is no reason to delay progress on this issue. The PLP’s position on this issue is clear. The people’s voices must be heard.”

Hypocritical

He added that Bermuda needed to move away from “hypocritical conservatism” that imposed rules on visitors to Bermuda that Bermudians abroad would not tolerate.

Mr Bean asked: “Why is it, when we travel, we act in one way but when others come to Bermuda we expect them to act in another way?”

And he added that other issues — like the decriminalization or legalization of marijuana or independence — would also best be dealt with by a referendum.

Mr Bean said: “On matters of moral questions, it’s best to take these issues direct to the people via a referendum.”

He added that a referendum would mean both supporters and opponents of casinos would be able to present their cases.

Mr Bean said: “There is a multitude of special interest groups, particularly the churches, which have a position on gaming as they have on every other issue.”

But he added that he believed in “a separation of church and state.”

And Mr Bean added: “People need employment and the PLP’s mantra is that we cannot just rely on international business.”