Bermuda: Gaming legislation clarifying finance minister’s responsibility over the sector passed

Bermuda’s legislation specifying the finance minister’s responsibility over gaming was passed by MPs this week after a heated debate over whether the move would finally deliver the long-awaited industry to the island. 

David Burt, the Premier, told the House of Assembly that the bill marked a financial amendment addressing the concerns that had been raised in 2020 by a local bank over the implementation of a Bermuda casino industry. 

Burt noted that a potential conflict of interest raised when he, as Premier, had also held the portfolio for tourism was resolved when he handed tourism over to another minister. He also stated that having an integrated resort model set for gaming in Bermuda had been a “flaw” in existing legislation, points out The Royal Gazette.

The amendment will give the Bermuda Casino Gaming Commission the flexibility to rewrite the obligations imposed on casino operators. But those powers would have to accord with obligations including regulations for anti-money laundering and antiterrorist financing, as well as “problem and responsible gaming.”

Jarion Richardson, Deputy Leader of the Opposition, warned the commission wielding such powers could have “damning consequences.”

Cole Simons, the Leader of the Opposition, called on Burt to “get the gaming solution correct” – noting there had been repeated statements in 2021 by Mr. Burt that casino gaming at the island was imminent, which has yet to occur.

The Premier assured that the government “will do everything in our power to deliver on our 2020 election manifesto pledge to launch a casino gaming industry here in Bermuda.”

Simons spoke of “a failure to deliver this amenity to the St Regis, and the Hamilton Princess Hotel who were frustrated by the whole process and withdrew their application.” He added that $6 million had gone into loans and grants to the BCGC since its inception.

In addition, he stated the commission had 11 employees but appeared to have no commissioners with specialist experience in developing a gaming industry. Some insiders believe Bermuda might never see a casino due to Gov. mismanagement.

The Hamilton Princess.

Jason Hayward, the Minister of Economy and Labour, responded to Opposition’s criticisms: “We meet the bank’s conditions … that is still not going to be good enough. I am now hearing that the challenges are the Premier. The banks didn’t indicate that they had a challenge with the Premier in their conditions, they simply asked for the portfolio to be moved to the Ministry of Tourism’s portfolio to the Ministry of Finance’s portfolio.”

That change has been made so if there is a question or concern with the Premier overseeing casino gaming in Bermuda the banks should make that explicitly clear. If you set out conditions and we meet the conditions, it is the expectation that the next step is that we discuss how we can make gaming in Bermuda a reality,” he concluded.