Government gives free vote on casino Bill

Government MPs will get a free vote on a Bill designed to bring the independent Bermuda Casino Gaming Commission under ministerial control.

But two Progressive Labour Party backbenchers told The Royal Gazette that the legislation, tabled by tourism minister Jamahl Simmons, will have the full support of the party.

The Bill, which would force the commission to follow the minister’s general policy directions and give him the power to sack commissioners without cause, has been criticised by overseas industry experts and by the gaming commission.

Government Whip Michael Weeks confirmed last night that PLP MPs will get a conscience vote on the legislation.

The commission’s chairman, Alan Dunch, and his deputy, Garry Madeiros, resigned in protest at the plan.

The Centre for Justice, a civil liberties organisation, revealed on Wednesday night that it had asked the Government to consider postponing today’s debate.

The group said: “Following the tabling of the Casino Gaming Amendment Bill 2017 ... we wrote to Minister Simmons urging him to postpone the debate of the Bill until such time as there has been full consultation with key stakeholders.

“Centre for Justice does not involve itself in areas that fall outside our remit. Gaming, in and of itself, is one such area that does not concern CfJ.

“However, in this instance, the Bill seeks to make changes to existing legislation that appear to deal with matters of good governance.

“The legitimacy of legislation, in a free and democratic society, is derived from the full participation of the public through consultation.

“CfJ’s strong recommendation is that the debate of the Bill be postponed with a view to engaging key stakeholders and the general public in consultation.”

Mr Simmons did not respond to a request for comment last night.

The Opposition is expected to oppose the Bill.

One Bermuda Alliance deputy leader Leah Scott suggested last month that the legislation, if approved, would “pierce the heart” of any future that Bermuda might have in casino gambling.

She said yesterday: “We are all against the amendment to the legislation. It is critical that the gaming commission be free from political interference. It does not, in any way, benefit the jurisdiction.

“We just got a pass on the EU blacklist. Government’s ability to interfere with the independence of the gaming commission is causing global concern.

“There is a wider issue here which the Government is either choosing to ignore or they are naively ignorant.”

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Published Dec 8, 2017 at 8:00 am (Updated Dec 7, 2017 at 11:41 pm)

Government gives free vote on casino Bill

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