Island’s first casino may open in early 2018
Another two hotels have applied for casino site designation, with the Casino Gaming Commission maintaining that a casino could open its doors in early 2018.
According to Alan Dunch, chairman of the commission, the owners of Fairmont Southampton and the Morgan’s Point hotel have both applied for their properties to be deemed designated sites, which if approved would allow them to seek provisional casino licences. “Both of those applications have been reviewed and recommendations made by the commission,” he said. “As we speak, they are with the minister for approval or otherwise. I am not aware if he has made any decision as of yet.”
And Richard Schuetz, executive director for the commission, said the launching of the RFP process through which provisional licences could be granted was imminent.
“We are excited about that,” he said. “We feel that we will have people presenting their projects to us by the late third quarter of this year and we will be granting provisional licences this year. We think that is within reach.
“Given that, depending on their state of preparedness, we may have a casino by the end of the first quarter. Obviously with someone like [St George’s hotel developer] Desarrollos, they are not going to open too quickly because they have a 36-month build out, but if an existing facility is awarded a provisional licence, that might happen fairly quickly.
“We still hold by the second quarter of 2018, we could have an operating facility.”
Detailing elements of the application process, they said the licence application process should be gazetted this week, with an RFP and details about the application process going out in April.
Mr Dunch said: “The following week we will make the announcement and hopefully we will have someone in here pretty quickly picking up the forms. There will be 90 days before the RFP is due, then we expect a 60-day review period and then public hearings in which a presentation is made. Hopeful that will be in September.”
Mr Dunch described the RFP application forms as “pretty onerous”, with Mr Schuetz explaining that they demand details about numerous aspects of the proposed casino.
“You are going to have to tell us what you are going to build, who is doing it. You are going to have to tell us about your emergency procedures, what’s your hiring plan, what’s your marketing plan. How are you going to get this building financed and what is your training programme going to look like. What’s your responsible gaming programme going to look like. On and on and on,” he said. “They are going to have to tell us what they are doing and make a lot of commitments.
“If they win a provisional licence, they will be required to do what they said they were going to do. If not, they will be given 60 days to correct it and if they don’t, they will be subject to disciplinary action, including losing their licence, so we have a big hammer.”
Mr Schuetz also stated that the commission had been making progress in both ensuring training opportunities were available for Bermudians, and establishing a Problem Gaming Council.
“We are working on naming a director very soon. I think we will be naming a counsel in accordance to the Act very shortly and we are pleased with how that is moving forward,” he said.
“We are developing this system for Bermuda, and we are working with the National Council of Problem Gambling. We are working with a great many other stakeholders in this country to develop the accreditation standard for people who are going to be certified at different levels. We are developing a hotline system — we need to make sure that is not done on the island, but with the US. Anonymity is of critical importance.”
And, noting the criticism of the delay in bringing casino gaming to the island, Mr Dunch defended the commission, saying the body had moved extremely quickly.
“One of the things that I find extraordinarily irritating is the criticism the commission has got for taking too long,” he said.
“I appreciate and understand that the working public in Bermuda have no real understanding of what is involved in developing this industry, but we have actually achieved one hell of a lot in a very short space and time with fairly minimal staff and budget.
“If we get our first casino by March of next year, that means we started this industry from the ground up and got it operational in three years. On a budget of less than $10 million and a staff of less than ten people. I think that’s a pretty formidable achievement.
“It bothers me that our critics, not one single one of them, have ever come into this room and sat down with Richard and I and discussed why we are where we are. If they did that, they might stop mouthing off about things they don’t know anything about.”
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