FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 18: Gaming appears to lie at the heart of the decision by cruise lines to cut their trips to Bermuda.
The firms lose money every day their ships are docked here because they cannot open their onboard casinos.
Consequently, some cruise ships inquired about locating offshore at night in order to allow their passengers to gamble and increase revenue.
The rejection of then-Premier Dr Ewart Brown’s cruise ship gaming bill in 2009 meant that the writing was on the wall for the cruise industry, according to experts.
They say cruise lines had made it clear they would look elsewhere if they were not able to open their casinos while in port here.
Mark Pettingill, OBA MP, told the Bermuda Sun that the lack of gaming options was a major factor that would have contributed to the loss of the Veendam in 2013 and Carnival Cruise Lines slashing its 2012 schedule.
He said: “Clearly the cruise ship passengers want to be able to game on board.
“When they are stopped from doing that it means they are deprived of a big amenity.
“The writing was on the wall when the cruise ships said ‘if we can not game we will not come’.
“There is no question in my mind that the fact the cruise ships can not game in Bermuda was a major factor to these companies pulling out of Bermuda.
“They told us two-and-a-half years ago, they warned us they would stop coming if they could not game.
“So it should not be a surprise that these companies have reduced their service to Bermuda.
“It’s the same principle with hotels.
“I have represented people who were looking to purchase a hotel site. It was at the time the Green Paper [on gaming, last year] was being debated and these people were prepared to go ahead with the project.
“But when the Green Paper was rejected they pulled the deal off the table.
“The cruise ship representatives spoke to all the parties and said you need to allow the cruise ships to have gaming or we will go somewhere else. Now we are reaping what we have sown.”
The Chamber of Commerce supported the 2009 cruise ship gaming bill but it was voted down in the House of Assembly.
Former Premier Sir John Swan told the Sun the onus was on Bermuda to provide gaming options to its cruise visitors.
He pointed to this summer’s transport problems in Dockyard as a factor that could have prompted cruise companies to pull out
He said: “I am in favour of gaming because we need to provide visitors like the cruise ship passengers with something different to do, we need to provide them with entertainment and an attraction.
“It is no longer good enough just to be beautiful, we have to provide something different.
“I’m sure this would have been a factor for the cruise companies reducing their services.
“The significant transportation problems up in Dockyard this year would not have helped either.
“I don’t believe we should let the cruise ships open their casinos while they are in Bermuda but we should provide that amenity ourselves.
“I don’t think the government has listened to what the cruise companies and the passengers have been saying for many years and now we find ourselves in a crisis.”
Joe Simas, vice president of Meyer Shipping, which acts as agents for the majority of cruise ships, said that cruise companies often looked for ways whereby they could open up their onboard casinos.
He added: “Every night a ship is alongside in Hamilton and Dockyard these companies are losing money because they are not able to open their casinos.
“We have had complaints from cruise ships that there is nothing for their passengers to do when they get here.
“In the past they have asked to open their casinos between 10pm and 5am.”
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