This is the final article in a three-part series examining the gaming issue in Bermuda, written by Pastor Simons.
Part 1: ‘Misleading’ that gaming will rescue economy
Part 2: Economic growth is key to Bermuda’s future, not gaming
My concern, as well as that of many of the faith-based leaders, leaders of social agencies, and members of the general public, is the “rush and urgency” with which the Government is trying to implement gaming in Bermuda based on the shaky claim that it will create more jobs and help to rescue the economy.
It is my view that gaming will not solve our economic woes; rather, our Government should shift its attention to more sustainable alternatives that will prove to be a greater investment in our people and in the future of Bermuda.
In Part 1 of this series we saw that gaming is not a secure way to boost the economy due to the realities that:
• Many have to lose for a few to win;
• The inevitable “kick-back” of generated social-ills from gaming will cost Bermuda’s taxpayers more than any legal profit the government will make from this industry;
• It is misleading to think that gaming will create many jobs for the Island and rescue the economy in any sustainable way with our visitor base and high cost of living.
In Part 2, we discovered that it is apparent that our government is missing the opportunity to invest in our greatest natural resource –– our people.
We should invest in greater customer service in the tourism industry.
Historically, what has always attracted people to Bermuda is not casinos, amusement parks, or large malls, but the God-given beauty of our Island and unparalleled beauty of our people displayed in our friendliness and customer service that we need to increase.
We need to revive the strong hospitality training we once had under the old Stonington Beach Hotel that was sold.
We need to revamp our educational curriculum to offer insurance and reinsurance courses from the middle to high school level to prepare our own people for international business, which is our number one industry.
This is sustainable development, not gaming. It was reported this week in the Royal Gazette that there were 1,000 international companies registered in 2013, a 15 per cent increase from 2012, yet it is concerning that a student can graduate from our educational system and not be offered or exposed to the vast field of insurance, reinsurance, international business or banking in a comprehensive manner in a country that is leading the way in these industries.
We need to create an adequate technical education programme at the high school level to foster the natural propensity and aptitude that many have for technical learning.
This is not a new concept.
The Bermuda Government opened the Bermuda Technical Institute in 1956 to answer the need for technical education for young persons, with an entry level at age 12.
It was, in effect, a technical high school; and at the time it was a revolutionary concept in Bermuda in which its success exceeded the expectation of all.
Despite the outstanding success, it was shut down in 1972.
Many adults and seniors in this community have shared with me their unwavering conviction that the shutdown was precipitated because persons were “making ‘too much’ money in the trades and were advancing by purchasing property and homes for their families”.
The reality is that it is imperative that we have a viable school or programme at the high school level to develop future tradesmen and women that should not be deemed an inferior career to those who obtain graduate degrees.
It is necessary for the country to produce citizens that can earn a substantial and respectable living in an ethical way.
The Government mentioned Singapore as a model for gaming in Bermuda.
However, it is good practice when looking at what could be a good model that you choose a country that has similar variables to your own.
However, looking at gaming in Singapore as a model for increasing our tourism base may not be the best country for several reasons.
First of all, because of its size. The Southeast Asian country consists of 274 square miles with a population of over 5 million.
Situated in a location that serves as one of the gateways to southeast Asia, they yield over 13 million tourists per year, most of which are coming from Indonesia (2,305,149), People’s Republic of China (1,171,337), Malaysia (1,036,918), Australia (880,486) and India (828,903).
Other major markets include the Philippines (544,344), Japan (528,817), the United Kingdom (461,714) and Thailand (430,022), which does not include Hong Kong, South Korea, etc.
What adds to the tourist base is the nightlife that Singapore offers.
Singapore is among the top five countries in the world for nightlife, according to the country’s media.
What enhances the nightlife and tourism base is the fact that their government has implemented legalized prostitution as a means to lure tourists and not just the fine dining and gaming alone.
Therefore this puts Singapore as a case study in a league of its own. Yet, when looking for a model country, we need to minimize factors that may compromise the case study.
The reality is that the Government of Singapore has legalized prostitution, yet they state various prostitution-related activities are not legal.
However, this becomes hard, if not impossible, to control.
In practice, police unofficially tolerate and monitor a limited number of brothels.
Prostitutes in such establishments are required to undergo periodic health checks and must carry a health card according to the 2008 Human Rights Report of Singapore.
Apart from these regulated brothels, commercial sex workers can be found in many “massage” or “spa” establishments.
There are over 1 million foreign workers in Singapore.
“Singapore is a destination country… subjected to sex trafficking and forced labour. Some foreign women are recruited through offers of legitimate employment and deceived about the nature and conditions of the prospective work in Singapore. Others enter Singapore with the intention of engaging in prostitution upon arrival and are subjected to forced prostitution under the threat of serious harm, including financial harm. Child sex trafficking occurs in Singapore [as well],” according to the US Department of State, 2013 Trafficking in Persons Report.
To use a country that has a large population base, a 5 million tourist base, and legalized prostitution may not be the best example for emulating their gaming policy for Bermuda.
Singapore’s large tourism base is due to factors far beyond gaming.
In conclusion, it would be extremely concerning to me, and many others in the general public, if the Government continues to maintain their agenda to approve and implement gaming at all cost without the public’s input in light of the current accusations that have been made about bribes and underhanded conduct.
Why the urgent rush at this time?
It would be better to pause and evaluate whether or not gaming is best for Bermuda’s future.
I am arguing that it is not, and that rather, we can focus on a sure plan that will prosper our youth and therefore our entire country.
Let’s not approve something that will cost us in the long-term.
Our youth, our families and our community cannot afford the risk; rather, let’s focus our resources, our wisdom, and our innovative ideas towards other entities that we know will sustain our people and hence the future of Bermuda.
“Gambling is a tax on ignorance. I find it socially revolting when the government preys on the ignorance of its citizenry. When governments make it easy for people to take their social security checks and pull [slot machine] handles….it’s not government at its best.” ––Warren Buffett, Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway.