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Bermuda to allow gambling on cruise ships
By Gene Koprowski
Bermuda is making some major changes to the rules controlling cruise ships visiting the country. The nation's legislature this week approved a plan to let ships operate shops, bars, casinos and other entertainment venues...
...every night while they are in port at Bermuda's -- a major relaxation of long-term rules that have restricted on-board games.
The change is designed to make Bermuda more "competitive" with other cruise destinations, experts said.
Most of the cruise ships that visit Bermuda spend multiple nights in port, and some legislators fear the existing rules restricting casino gambling and other entertainment options on ships have diminished the attraction of a cruise to the destination.
"The common practice of prohibiting on-board revenue from shops, professional entertainment and casinos while ships are docked in Bermuda is . . . contributing to Bermuda's loss of competitive advantage," Bermuda's Premier Ewart Brown said.
The new policy to allow gambling on the ships is controversial in a country where casino gambling is outlawed, and opposition party members fought the change on the grounds that it would open the door to casinos on land, too.
Legislators also agreed to waive the $14 per cabin tax the country charges cruise ships docking in Hamilton and St. George's for three years, starting in 2009. The country hopes to lure smaller, premium ships back to the ports.
Premier Brown announced the decision in the House of Assembly on Friday.
The politician said that the restrictions would be removed after 10 p.m. every night, and said cruise lines would in return, for the concession, be required to contribute hundreds of thousands of dollars to on-Island activities such as the Bermuda Music Festival and Harbour Nights.
Opinion over gambling has been somewhat controversial on the Island, with the AME Church recently condemning the controversial casino ship Niobe Corinthian which came to Bermuda and the Seventh-day Adventist Church hitting out against poker games which were being played in bars.
Pro-gambling groups hoped Dr. Brown would bring a more relaxed attitude, and have pointed to the Premier's participation in overseas poker tournaments, including a recent appearance at a gambling tournament at the notorious Los Angeles Playboy Mansion.
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