Corey Butterfield
Corey Butterfield

Were the seeds of an alleged closed-door casino gambling meeting between Premier Craig Cannonier and Opposition leader Marc Bean sown last April?

A report from last spring outlining potential political ramifications of forging ahead with plans to bring a casino to Bermuda appears quite prescient now.

On Friday, Mr Bean revealed he met with the Premier to discuss the casino referendum that would be ultimately discarded by the OBA. Specifically, Mr Bean said the Premier told him his businesses were in financial difficulty. The PLP leader also alleges during that meeting, the Premier said a prospective casino developer offered to pay him and two other OBA politicians for a casino licence. Mr Cannonier has rejected Mr Bean’s statements, saying it would not make sense for him to tell his political adversary such things.

The aforementioned memo, dated April 11, 2013 and believed to be authored by Corey Butterfield, a former PLP spokesman who at that time was working as an OBA government consultant, makes a slew of recommendations about how best to handle forging ahead without a casino referendum.

Perhaps most interestingly, one of the recommendations calls for holding a confidential meeting with the Opposition Leader, to “ascertain his opinion on foregoing the referendum”.

The memo later states “given some of the Opposition Leader’s initial comments about change in the country, the government may find him personally amenable to the accelerated pursuit of gaming”.

The OBA , in the run-up to the December 2012 general election, had stated that the gambling issue on the island should be decided by a referendum. Last December, the OBA-led government revealed it would be forgoing a referendum, instead opting to introduce legislation directly to the House of Assembly.

The April memo proves the OBA was considering scrapping a referendum months before the December announcement. It states that the government “will need an extremely robust strategy” that assuages Bermudians who are against gambling, Bermudians who need more information before they make up their minds about gaming, and OBA supporters who thought there would be a referendum.

The memo also predicts the government will be open to attacks from the PLP concerning the government’s adherence — or in this case lack of adherence – to its campaign platform promises.

“While the government will have to endure several attacks during its term while continuing to press ahead with its agenda, it is not advisable to hand an issue to the opposition with which they could inspire voters to reject an ‘edict’ in favour of a ‘voice’.”