"If an informed decision is to be made on whether to permit casino and similar gambling in Bermuda, all those involved in the decision should have access to the widest range of information about the issue." - Stuart Hayward. *iStock photo/File photo
"If an informed decision is to be made on whether to permit casino and similar gambling in Bermuda, all those involved in the decision should have access to the widest range of information about the issue." - Stuart Hayward. *iStock photo/File photo

If an informed decision is to be made on whether to permit casino and similar gambling in Bermuda, all those involved in the decision should have access to the widest range of information about the issue. 

Most of the study and information available to Bermuda has been done by proponents or members of the gambling industry. Whether by design or otherwise, such a built-in conflict of interest is likely to weight any resulting discussion, and decision, in favour of gambling.

BEST decided to bring some semblance of balance to the readily available information by initiating a study of the pros AND cons of the effects of gambling on previously researched communities. It didn’t take us long to be persuaded that the known and inevitable liabilities far outweighed the hoped-for benefits.

Perhaps the most surprising discovery was the effect a gambling house (casino) has on other businesses nearby. Casinos tend not to generate any new business but rather siphon off trade from businesses in the vicinity. This unintended consequence may benefit the casino but at the expense of the economic health of the area, perhaps the entire Island.

If Bermuda chooses to follow some states by prohibiting locals from being casino patrons thus reducing some aspects of the local negative impact, we may well have to address issues of civil liberties, and how to regulate and enforce such a policy. And who would then patronise the casino(s) in the off season?

Confirmed social costs include increased crime, suicide rates, homelessness, child neglect, domestic abuse, divorce and bankruptcies. A related but sometimes hidden economic cost comes from the lost productivity of problem gamblers. We would need to step up our government and non-government social agencies and support systems for dealing with these problems, noting that the worst negative social and economic effects tend to most affect the less wealthy and more vulnerable segments of the population.

BEST has received overwhelming praise for our attempt to broaden the gambling discussion — we have also had some negative feedback, although most of these have been of the “shoot the messenger” type.

One negative response to the paper included questions about why an “environmental” organisation should be concerned about a “social” issue. The answer is simple: BEST’s mission includes promoting sustainability in our management of the social, economic and physical facets of the environment — because they are inextricably intertwined.

Nukes and hookers

Another negative response said in essence that we should get on with gambling so we can have more jobs. Let’s put jobs into perspective. Building a nuclear plant would create jobs, but the vast and long-lasting damage being experienced in Japan’s Fukushima plant argues against us seeing a nuclear plant as an acceptable job creator. Similarly we would reject a prostitution hall as a suitable construction-job scheme. If a casino is right for Bermuda then it will be good to have the jobs. If we’re going to have a casino, let’s have it for the right reasons.


Read a summary of the Bermuda Environmental Sustainability Taskforce's list of 'cons' for gambling with THIS article.