Gaming chief hits back at MM&I

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A claim by a firm bidding for a multimillion-dollar government gaming contract that it would give away the vast majority of its profits was called into question yesterday.

Alan Dunch, chairman of the Bermuda Casino Gaming Commission, said MM&I’s statement that it would donate “95 per cent of all profits” to good causes if it landed the hugely lucrative deal was met by the commission with “interest, intrigue and a degree of incredulity”.

MM&I made the claim on Wednesday after a special report in The Royal Gazette revealed that the company made an agreement with the One Bermuda Alliance government for an exclusive deal to provide a networked gaming system for casinos on the island.

Records released under the Public Access to Information Act show the gaming commission feared the deal could still be under consideration by the Progressive Labour Party administration, even though it has flagged up concerns about the licensing history of people associated with MM&I’s Florida-based partner, Banyan Gaming.

Mr Dunch said: “The commission has read with interest, intrigue and a degree of incredulity the statement issued by MM&I in response to The Royal Gazette articles published yesterday.

“Given the assertion that MM&I is seeking legal advice ‘to claim significant damages’ against the commission, prudence dictates that the commission should be cautious in providing any comment upon MM&I’s alleged position.

“However, the commission can say that until we read it in the paper yesterday, at no time was the commission ever made aware of the purported philanthropic objectives of MM&I and certainly no representations of the sort made in their response will be found in any of the written or verbal communications that the commission has had with the principals of MM&I — nor are they in any of the documents to which the commission has been made privy.”

MM&I said after it got back its investment in the networked gaming system and reached the “profit stage” it would donate 95 per cent of all profits to a “government-appointed Gaming Proceeds for Charity Committee” and the money would be distributed to “churches, community clubs, vulnerable citizens’ programmes, etc”.

Mr Dunch said: “The commission has no knowledge of and indeed has never heard of any referenced Gaming Proceeds for Charity Committee and there is no reference to such a committee in the Casino Gaming Act or in any documentation to date other than in The Royal Gazette.

“The creation of such a committee has never been the subject of any discussion with the commission by anyone.”

The Ministry of Economic Development and Tourism was asked if such a committee existed or was under discussion — but no response was received by press time.

The gaming commission released 59 pages of records about the MM&I deal under Pati, including the agreement itself and e-mail correspondence.

No mention of the charity element of MM&I’s plan is made in the documents.

Two other documents obtained separately, a Cabinet memo by the late Shawn Crockwell who was tourism minister, and a 15-page joint submission that MM&I and Banyan made in response to a government request for qualifications advert in 2015, also make no mention of charity donations. All the documents can be viewed on The Royal Gazette’s website.

Page 12 of the RFQ submission shows the list of seven references that MM&I and Banyan provided to the Government, including billionaire casino owner Steve Wynn.

The records released by the commission revealed that the regulatory body’s executive director Richard Schuetz knew many of the referees and made inquiries which resulted in “less than glowing” written and verbal responses.

MM&I claimed in its statement: “Our MM&I references were never contacted by the Bermuda Gaming Commission.”

But Mr Dunch said: “As is made clear in the correspondence that is referenced in The Royal Gazette articles, and contrary to what MM&I says in its response, the commission did contact and make inquiry of the references put forward by MM&I and, as a result, it raised the concerns that it did, concerns which to date have not been responded to.

“Beyond that, the commission has nothing more to add at this stage.”

On occasion The Royal Gazette may decide to not allow comments on a story that we deem might inflame sensitivities. As we are legally liable for any slanderous or defamatory comments made on our website, this move is for our protection as well as that of our readers.

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