Banks: No involvement in casinos
The island’s three banks have told the Government they “won’t bank casinos”, according to the chairman of the Bermuda Casino Gaming Commission.
Alan Dunch told a gathering of business leaders yesterday that the island’s fledgeling casino industry may never take flight if the banks do not agree to be involved.
“Nobody told me when I took this job on that the three banks in this country had told the Government they won’t bank casinos,” he told the annual meeting of the Association of Bermuda International Companies.
He added: “If we can’t get the banks to bank casinos … there won’t be any casinos.”
Mr Dunch spoke after the commission’s executive director Richard Schuetz gave a talk to the meeting on how plans were going to get the gaming industry up and running in Bermuda, including ensuring robust anti-money laundering measures were in place.
Mr Schuetz said: “Mr Dunch and I have flown to the East Coast of the United States to meet the head of the money-laundering office for Wells Fargo Bank, which is the correspondent bank to Clarien.
“We have flown to New York to meet the chairman of the Bank of New York about our money-laundering controls and they have given us serious discussions about the importance of having this part buttoned down.
“And what’s at stake here is just not our ability to offer a casino industry.
“We think it is the ability of this island to maintain its brand as a viable and legitimate, economic entity.”
We asked Bermuda’s three banks — Clarien, Butterfield and HSBC — for comment late yesterday afternoon but none was received by press time.
However, Senator Michael Fahy, the tourism minister, told The Royal Gazette: “The Bermuda Government is well aware of the issues that surround banking the proceeds from gaming.
“It is important that we have a robust regulatory regime to demonstrate to both local banks and their overseas correspondent banks that adequate know-your-client and anti-money laundering provisions are in place. “As we move ever closer to having gaming in Bermuda through the allocation of casino gaming licences via the Casino Gaming Commission we will ensure that such robust provisions are in place to give comfort to our partners that our regime is of a first-class standard.”
During a question-and-answer session following Mr Schuetz’s talk, Mr Dunch discussed the recently tabled Casino Gaming Amendment Bill, which he said could be debated in Parliament a week today.
He said existing legislation allowed for the issuing of three casino licences but the amendment would allow a fourth licence to be issued to the developers of the St George’s Resort, the Desarrollos Group.
Mr Fahy added: “The amended legislation provides for a provisional licence to be given to the St George’s developer which will still permit the Casino Gaming Commission to allocate three provisional licences. All provisional licence holders will need to satisfy many conditions before a full licence can be granted by the Commission.”
Mr Dunch said the philosophy that led to the original gaming legislation being passed centred on the idea of casinos as an amenity for hotels. But he said he and Mr Schuetz were keen to see one of the hotel operators rebranding as an internationally-known casino name and that could provide a big economic boost for the island.
He confirmed that Bermudians would be able to visit casinos. “I have no intention of telling my fellow Bermudians that they can’t participate in gaming,” he said.
Mr Schuetz was asked when the island would see its first casino open and the executive director joked: “I can tell you but I’d have to kill you first.”
He said the commission had struggled to get an amendment to the existing legislation tabled in the House over the past year and still needed to get 700 or so pages of regulations past legislators.
“If we are allowed to … move forward and take care of business, we believe we can have the right package done some time in late March, April. We can then move to have an RFP process.”
He added: “If everything fell right, we could have a casino open on this island in 2018.”
The 45-page Casino Gaming Amendment Bill includes a section on combating corruption in casino gaming. “The Bill is making amendments to strengthen our regulatory regime in totality,” explained Mr Fahy.
The draft originally proposed by the commission would have banned all politicians from involvement in the gaming industry for two years after they left office.
As reported by The Royal Gazette last month, that was expected to be opposed by One Bermuda Alliance backbencher Mark Pettingill and independent MP Shawn Crockwell, both lawyers who represent clients with interests in the gaming industry.
The newly tabled version has narrowed that category down so it only applies to Cabinet ministers and parliamentarians whose responsibilities relate directly to gaming.
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