Bringing down the House

Gambling is back, right on schedule, and it promises to be the dominant discussion of the next several months.

I am generally ambivalent on gambling, I don't see it as a tourism silver bullet or a social death knell, and while I have little interest in it myself I do have some serious affiliated concerns.

Firstly, if the sordid allegations, however gently put, of attempted political insider dealing around the Southlands/Morgan's Point swap/development are remotely accurate, we have a glimpse into what will come in a Bermuda that lacks even the most rudimentary ethics and disclosure laws for our politicians and developers.

So I cannot support the introduction of gambling and a major casino development or developments without the precursor of comprehensive public access to information, campaign finance laws and ethical oversight bodies. There's been too much sleaze in the past few years, including the use of Trusts with public projects at the Courthouse and the Bermuda Cement Company hijacked and handed to a crony just to name two.

If we want gambling we must act like a modern well regulated and highly ethical jurisdiction. Bermuda under Brown is light years from that.

Secondly, we must accept that if legalised and widespread gambling is to come to Bermuda it will ruin lives, and Government will have to earmark substantial amounts of their casino revenues for social programs and facilities to counter the effects on some of our population.

Alex Scott is correct that the Gambling Green paper was a sales job, but so was Alex Scott's Bermuda Independence Commission.

That much was expected. We all knew the recommendation would be in favour. The question is do we have the requisite checks and balances and oversight ability for what will be a cash printing machine that has and will attract all sorts of unsavory elements, including unscrupulous politicians of which we have no shortage lately.

The answer to that is a resounding no.

Reform first. Gambling might follow.

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