Gambling could be done ‚in a tasteful way‘

Casinos in Bermuda would not turn the Island into a gambling destination, Fairmont Southampton boss Norman Mastalir said yesterday.

But Mr. Mastalir believes the introduction of upmarket „tasteful“ venues similar to those in Atlantis, on Bahamas‘ Paradise Island, or in Puerto Rico could help rejuvenate the struggling tourism industry.

The Fairmont is one of five hotels helping fund a feasibility study into relaxing the Island’s gaming laws — something Mr. Mastalir and other hoteliers have been lobbying Government to do for several years.

Asked what kind of tourists casinos would bring to Bermuda, Mr. Mastalir told The Royal Gazette: „It’s not our intention that Bermuda would become a gambling destination. It’s our contention that other countries have this as part of their offering. Along with gaming comes entertainment, more restaurants. This is what we would like to be part of: to study that for Bermuda and see if this concept makes sense.

„We are talking about new hotel products in Bermuda — reinventing the hotels that are here. Whether that’s through fractional ownership, development of new pools, new spas. All of these things are part of this overall drive to get Bermuda tourism modernised and in keeping with our competition.

„We have a responsibility to look at any opportunities like this.“

Regarding the kind of product currently available elsewhere, he said: „Certainly there are some very successful resorts out there today that are including casinos as part of the package: Atlantis (in the Bahamas), Ritz Carlton in Puerto Rico — other hotels in Puerto Rico as well. It’s possible to do it in a tasteful way. I’m sure that the Bermuda model is not going to include casinos in lobbies. It will be done in a way in keeping with the feel.“

Mr. Mastalir would not be drawn on exactly what could be expected at the Fairmont or whether casinos would form part of a new extension, saying he would wait for the results of the study. He said the Bermuda Hotel Association had been pushing to allow gambling for several years, but had received a mixture of responses from Government and some years ago was asked to take it off the table.

The breakthrough came when Premier and Tourism Minister Ewart Brown announced the USD 300,000 review at a press conference last week.

„We have had this issue of gaming on the table for at least six years. It’s on the table because we see our competitors expanding their product offering, making their destinations more exciting, adding different things to make their destinations more interesting,“ said Mr. Mastalir.

„It’s occurred to us for many years that this whole issue of gaming has been expanded in different destinations over the world. We want to have a close look at it and see if it’s something that would benefit Bermuda… We were particularly pleased when Dr. Brown took it up and decided times have changed.“