Monday, October 7, 2013

MPs pass cruise ship casino law

Visiting cruise ships are set to be allowed to keep their casinos open when in port after MPs passed the Cruise Ship (Casino) Act 2013 early this morning.

The concession — allowing on-board casinos to operate between 9pm and 5am — would ensure Bermuda remained competitive as a cruise destination, according to Tourism Minister Shawn Crockwell.

He said such a move would economically benefit both the cruise companies, which would increase their on-board revenue, and the Island, which would collect licence fees.

Presenting the Act for its second reading yesterday afternoon, Mr Crockwell said the ships would have to be in port for one night or more to qualify for permission.

“The use of the casino is to be limited to passengers on board the ship only. No local residents or visitors to the ship will be allowed to participate in casino activities.”

He said the key concern for many would be the impact on local retailers, restaurateurs and entertainers, but he believed it would be “minimal”.

Mr Crockwell said: “Our research has indicated that the majority of visiting cruise passengers return to their ship by 9pm and, by this time, most of our retail shops are closed.

“However, and I want to emphasise the word however, if the destination provides good products that include good entertainment and amenities that goes beyond the traditional offerings, the passenger will stay ashore to take in the local experience and spend money.

“Not all cruise passengers purchase their tickets at a discounted price. Many of the passengers are well-heeled and high-income earners and these new ships have one and two bedroom suites with butler services on their upper decks that have a price point comparable to high-end resorts.

“These high net income passengers choose to cruise because of the product and service that is offered and similarly they will patronise local businesses if we have the products on offer that they desire.

“Therefore, the impact to local businesses will be minimal and our Ministry will closely monitor and analyse the impact to this segment of our local businesses and enterprise.”

The Minister said smaller ships capable of berthing in Hamilton and St George’s, with a passenger capacity not exceeding 2,000, would not be charged a licence fee.

“In our discussions with the operators of these smaller, and often older ships, they have shared with us that they are at a competitive disadvantage,” he said. “Not charging them a permit fee will assist in placing them in a more competitive position.”

Mr Crockwell reiterated a commitment to hold a referendum on gaming in Bermuda before the next Budget but said the issue of cruise ship casino opening was a “separate and distinct matter”. More