Bermuda prepares to welcome its first casinos to help revive tourism

HAMILTON, Bermuda – Bermuda’s Senate on Wednesday approved a heavily debated measure that would allow the tiny, wealthy British territory to build its first casinos.

The bill caps the number of casinos at three, and it calls for all of them to be located inside hotels to help revive the island’s sluggish tourism and construction industries.

A St. Regis resort that would feature a casino is planned for the St. George’s area as part of a $120 million development. Other high-end resorts also have expressed interest in similar projects, especially with the 35th America’s Cup coming to Bermuda in June 2017.

Bermuda had initially planned to hold a referendum on whether to allow casinos but scrapped the idea last year in favour of filing the bill that was approved after a 10-hour debate.

Opponents say they worry that casinos could attract prostitution and lead to violence.

“It is the saddest day of my career in politics,” said Wayne Furbert, an economic development minister. “Why can’t we structure our island around something that is more wholesome?”

Legislators expect to file additional bills early next year to help regulate the island’s fledgling casino industry, with speculation that only hotel guests would be allowed to play.

Tourism Minister Shaun Crockwell said the bill’s approval represents a “significant and critical adjustment.”

“In the past 30 years, Bermuda has moved from a tourism industry leader to an industry outsider,” he said.

Bermuda’s Lower House approved the bill on Saturday, and the governor is expected to sign it.

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