PATI Request #0008 20181016 Re
Gaming watchdog legal fees approach $600,000
The island’s gambling regulator splashed out almost $600,000 on legal services over the past two years, it was revealed yesterday.
The figure was reported as the Bermuda Casino Gaming Commission published details in the Official Gazette of all the contracts it holds worth $50,000 or more, in line with the Public Access to Information Act.
The list included an ongoing contract with law firm Conyers Dill & Pearman, which began in January 2017 and which had cost $533,134 as of December 31 last year.
An ongoing contract with another law firm, Wakefield Quin, which represented the commission in its successful attempt to silence former executive director Richard Schuetz, had cost $65,892 by the end of December. The BCGC also has an in-house general counsel, Deborah Blakeney, who is likely to earn a six-figure salary.
Details of ten contracts held by the taxpayer-funded BCGC, worth $1.3 million in total, were highlighted in the Official Gazette.
The disclosure came on the same day that commission chairwoman Cheryl-Ann Mapp upheld an earlier decision by the regulator not to release details of its finances in response to a Pati request from The Royal Gazette.
The Pati request asked for:
• Details of the commission’s income and expenditure for 2017-18 and 2018-19 to date
• The total amount spent on legal fees for the civil case against Mr Schuetz
• Any and all memorandums of understanding that the commission has or has had with outside agencies and details of any that have been terminated
• Details of any agreements the commission has with the United Kingdom Gambling Commission
• The consultancy agreement the BCGC has with George Rover, the former deputy director of the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement
Ms Mapp, in a letter dated yesterday, said the records were exempt from disclosure under sections 25 and 26 of the Pati Act, which deal with commercial information and information received in confidence.
The Royal Gazette has appealed the decision to the island’s independent Information Commissioner.
The Official Gazette notice listed two contracts held in 2017 with Rover Strategic Advisors, for gaming consultancy services, worth a total of $89,296.
It also gave details of two contracts worth a total of $57,106 with Princeton Global Strategies for gaming consultancy services. The most recent contract is due to end on February 1.
Both Rover Strategic Advisors and Princeton Global Strategies are run by George Rover.
The other contracts listed by the commission were:
• $422,040 to Jardine Gibbons Properties for rental of office space in Crawford House on Church Street, since October 2015
• $72,761 for accounting and bookkeeping services to Estrella Accounting and Management
• $51,462 for compliance consultancy services to Felicia Daniels between April and December last year
• $51,426 to Gaming Laboratories International for ongoing “consulting services relating to the creation of a regulatory structure for casino gaming in Bermuda to be overseen by BCGC”.
The gaming commission has received at least $5.4 million of taxpayers’ cash since it was set up in 2015.
The commission hired Joseph Giret QC, then with the Wakefield Quin law firm, to obtain an injunction again Mr Schuetz last year.
Mr Schuetz, who has yet to be replaced, said in his resignation letter that his repeated warnings about “glaring deficiencies in the anti-money-laundering regime of this island’s betting sector” were ignored and there was a lack of political will to address the problems.
He warned Bermuda would be “incapable of keeping people with questionable backgrounds and behaviours” away from the gaming industry unless improvements were made.
The commission said in its initial refusal that the total amount spent on legal fees in the civil case against Mr Schuetz was information shared in confidence by Wakefield Quin and was not subject to Pati.
Ms Mapp did not respond to a request for comment yesterday.
The BCGC, under the Casino Gaming Act 2014, has to submit its audited financial statements and accounts to the Government every year so they can be tabled in Parliament.
A spokesman for the House of Assembly said last week it appeared that no financial statements had been tabled.
• To view the response to the Pati request, click on the PDF link under “Related Media”