I am opposed to legalisng gambling in Bermuda, primarily because I see it as a de facto ‘tax’ on the poor and desperate – a redistribution of wealth from the already poor to the already wealthy.
I also believe gambling brings more social negatives than positives (of which the State then has to deal with, leading to further subsidising the already wealthy essentially).
I intend to campaign/advocate for a no vote in the upcoming referendum, although I personally believe that our people are so desperate after consecutive years of economic pain that there is a high likelihood of a the pro-gambling vote winning.
Which makes it all the more shocking to me that the OBA would feel it necessary to resort to such an underhanded and loaded question for the referendum.
A Loaded Question
As reported in Bernews, the official question for the referendum is:
“Do you favour the introduction of regulated casino gaming for the purposes of creating new jobs for Bermudians and encouraging hotel development?”
I already have issue with the underhanded Orwellian way that ‘gambling’ is being dressed up with seemingly positive connotations as ‘gaming’ – a much more innocent sounding term which obscures the reality of gambling.
Was it really necessary however to add the ‘for the purposes of…etc’ part?
This is a loaded question if I ever saw one, and I find it shocking that OBA felt it necessary to use such a tactic.
I don’t know if this is a shambolic episode or an expression of desperation on their part.
It’s no secret that there have been divisions amongst what are widely seen as OBA supporters about the need for a referendum on gambling in the first place, with key entities like the Chamber of Commerce and John Swan campaigning against a referendum, while others pointing out that if the OBA don’t go ahead with a referendum it would add yet another item to the growing pile of pre-election OBA promises.
A cynic may even argue that this loaded question is a reflection of the tensions between those in the OBA camp advocating for no referendum and those worried about the further erosion of political capital that not holding a referendum would cause.
And so a compromise referendum question that just makes the OBA look either desperate, shambolic or underhanded.
Or all three.
A Scottish Precedent
As many readers may know, I am currently living between Scotland and Bermuda.
Scotland is currently in the midst of a debate on independence in the run-up to a a referendum on independence next year.
The original and preferred question of the Scottish Government was:
“Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country?”
Accordingly, the question was thrown out and had to be replaced by:
“Should Scotland be an independent country? Yes/No”
It seems to me that Bermuda should have some similar mechanism for an independent authority to force the OBA’s loaded question to be thrown out and replaced with a neutral question.
And if we don’t have one, perhaps it’s time we did.