We need income: Is casino gambling one of the answers for Bermuda? *File photo
We need income: Is casino gambling one of the answers for Bermuda? *File photo

March’s Budget Debate told us that by 2013, Bermuda’s Public Debt had hit $1,469,000,000. The new Minister for Finance then told us that he intended to borrow another $331,000,000 in order to get through this year.

The arithmetic tells us that by this time next year, the Minister for Finance will be reporting Public Debt of $1,800,000,000. That’s $1.8 billion dollars.

So Public Debt is still rocketing up, and with it goes Debt Service Costs. These fast-rising costs can only be dealt with in two ways. One — Cut spending. Two — Increase revenue.

Perhaps the fastest way to add, and add rapidly, to revenue is to introduce casinos and gaming. The additional revenue certainly won’t turn everything around.  However, additional revenue can or will provide some significant help. As well, the introduction of gaming can initially provide as many as 50 or more brand new and additional jobs.

What’s preventing the introduction of gaming is a national decision paralysis.  However, this purely human factor can be very easily dealt with, in three simple steps.

Step One — The newly elected Parliament can have a debate and conscience vote on gaming in Bermuda.

If, on a free vote, the majority of elected Parliamentarians accept and pass the measure, then the laws and regulations can start being prepared. 

If the measure is rejected by the Senate, then bring it back six months later and move on to get the laws and regulations on the books.

Step Two — If, on a free vote, Parliament rejects it, then try again with the Governing party using its Parliamentary power to pass the measure and get gaming going. 

If the Governing party is so split that it cannot do this, then go to Step Three.

Step Three — Put the matter to a national referendum. Both parties, and everybody else — churches, environmentalists, moralists, punters, and pushers —  are free to push their point of view.

Referendum over, there will be a decision. The referendum outcome will be either YES or NO. If YES — get the laws through Parliament and on the books.  If NO, drop the whole matter and immediately tell the whole world that Bermuda is NOT and will never be open for gaming.

The key issue is that we must start making some decisions.

The financial decision implicit in the March 2013 Budget decision was that everything to do with spending would remain as before. That is, no real change in that strategic matter. No cut in spending, just stay as before. Stay with the PLP spending pattern.

That “stay as we are” decision means that nothing different will happen until April 2014.

Bermuda has been arguing, fretting, fussing, and talking about gaming for more than ten years. In 2003, Bermuda had gaming. Then it was taken out. Gaming has been under discussion ever since.

With a March 31st 2014 Debt load of $1,800,000,000 coming at us, Bermuda needs to start making and taking some hard decisions. The additional cost of an additional $331,000,000 in Public Debt will cost the national purse about $26,500,000 a year. If Gaming is allowed, the national purse might pick up as much as $13,000,000 a year in additional new revenue. That meets half the additional Debt burden for the coming year.

Without gaming, all of that $26.5 million must come from current taxes — or be part of an additional borrowing package in 2014. More borrowing to pay for more borrowing.

The key matter is this. Make a decision and make it now. Despite whatever Parliamentarians or Civil Service mouthpieces may say, Gaming can be put on the order paper and debated within any thirty day period. 

Do remember that in our Westminster Parliamentary system Parliament is supreme. Bermuda’s Parliament can change or suspend many of its own Bermuda Parliamentary rules whenever it wants.

For gaming and casinos, it’s decision time. That decision time is now. Three steps, with each step able to provide a clear decision.

It’s decision time. Let’s act. Come on people, let’s make a decision. n