WEDNESDAY, JUNE 13: Before you make an argument for or against gambling in Bermuda or ‘gaming’ as advocates like to call it, I ask you to participate in a test.
The next time you’re in Hamilton, ask a few visitors whether they have arrived to Bermuda by cruise ship. You might be surprised by the responses.
I have often found that cruise ship passengers are delighted to tell you all about the ship and the condition of their crossing, not to mention the food. They love it.
Visitors staying in a hotel however, typically have one response. Notice the classic dead give-away look of annoyance, followed by a deep sigh of impatience, and then finally, “of course I’m not on one of those ships”.
It’s a class thing. High net-worth individuals like to travel in the same spheres as other high net-worth individuals. They like to eat at the same restaurants, go to the same destinations and have their second and third homes near one another. What, you don’t have a third home? Pity.
The Hamptons, Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard or if you’re in the know, just simply, ‘the Vineyard’, along with other exclusive destinations (Newport anyone?) are not typically known for their rip-roaring activities — unless you consider a croquet tournament riveting.
This is why I find it amusing that many of our hoteliers and a good many restaurateurs and retail owners suggest that there’s nothing to do in Bermuda for visitors. Actually, there’s plenty to do in Bermuda for the wealthy. I call it the ‘Getting Ready for Dinner Club’.
Getting ready for dinner is a time-honoured tradition among the wealthy. “I’m playing golf in the morning, meeting Suzy for lunch and then back to the club at three for bridge. Then I’ll go home and get ready for dinner.”
This could mean all sorts of things. You could take a nap, you could just sit and listen to the roaring ocean with a drink in hand, maybe two and then a little later, you’ll decide what to wear to cocktails followed by dinner.
If you have time before dinner you might want to pick up the phone to ‘Barbara’ or ‘Catherine’ to talk about last night’s dinner. You don’t know any ‘Tiffanys’, ‘Madisons’ or ‘Brooklyns’. Those are places, not people’s names.
You don’t go to Vegas. Ever.
For this reason, the Tourism Board of Bermuda and their members, along with all Bermudians, must think very carefully before deciding in favour of legalized gambling. Just ask the residents of Southampton, New York about gambling and you’ll get an earful.
In the land of CEOs and elite Hollywood establishment (think Steven Spielberg), gambling is a big no-no. When the Shinnecock Indian Nation, which owns a whopping 800 acres of prime real estate in Southampton, New York wanted to open a casino, the protests were deafening. No one wants it. Period.
It’s one thing to gamble on Wall Street but quite another thing to spend one’s day with one arm bandits (slot machines).
Frankly, most members of the One Percent Club (crazy rich) don’t have the wardrobe for gambling since most participants seem to have a great propensity for wearing tank tops with messages written across their chests — and that’s just the men.
Tourism chairman Maxwell Burgess believes that gaming has a major advantage in that it is a “non-weather related activity and could have a positive effect on winter business”.
I have one word for him — Nantucket. During our glorious summer months, Nantucket is often socked in with fog as thick as pea soup. It hasn’t stopped America’s wealthy from summering there for generations.
That same crowd will be heading to Aspen, Vail, Beaver Creek and a host of other ski resorts during the winter months where, one could argue that there’s more decreased visibility weather-wise (called snow) but not socially. They’ll still be surrounded by other high-net worth individuals.
Don’t like the cold? Palm Beach is nice. For some, it is the equivalent of returning to Mecca but really it’s where the ‘Getting Ready for Dinner Club’ originated. Cocktails start at noon.
Tortola and St. Barths are popular, neither has gambling but oh, the rich and famous can spend the entire day at the pool or beach getting ready for dinner, without interruption. In St. Barths there’s nude bathing. Don’t worry, the rich don’t look any better than you without their clothes on, but just in case, you might want to keep your ‘Celebrity’ cruise ship souvenir T-shirt close by.
Bermuda needs to decide what kind of tourism product it wants to offer: high end, budget or both. There’s nothing wrong with travelling on a budget. Seeing the Acropolis wearing your backpack is also a time-honoured tradition and travelling by coach can be one of the best ways to see the world.
But one shouldn’t ignore that the vast majority of gaming enthusiasts arrive by bus to the casinos in New Jersey and Connecticut. Is this what Bermudians want?
One thing is for certain, if the tourism product becomes saturated with gaming, you’ll have one kind of tourist and that, I’m afraid won’t bode well for anyone interested in attracting the ‘Getting Ready for Dinner Club’ crowd. They’ll call for reservations elsewhere.
Elaine Murray is director of The Irish Linen Shop on Front Street.