Casino law changes give minister more say
A controversial law change to give the Government more control over the gambling watchdog was backed by the Senate yesterday.
The amendments were designed to empower the responsible minister to give policy direction to the Bermuda Casino Gaming Commission after consultation and to fire commissioners.
Progressive Labour Party senator Crystal Caesar, who claimed there had been a “media disinformation campaign” about the amendments, added that the minister will also be able to “revoke the appointment of a member who is unable or unwilling to perform his duties as a member or in such other circumstances where the member’s conduct may amount to misconduct or breach of best regulatory practice, or is likely to bring the commission or the Government into disrepute”.
One Bermuda Alliance senator Justin Mathias said his party could not support the amendment and that it was an attack on the commission’s independence.
Mr Mathias said: “I don’t see how a gaming commission can have that independence when this is held over the commission’s head.”
Independent senator James Jardine said the commission should listen to the Government, but that there must be a way to resolve disputes when the commission has reason to disagree with directions from the minister.
He suggested that disputes could be handled by independent arbitration.
Mr Jardine said the changes were “too invasive” and he could not support them.
Jason Hayward of the PLP said that the amendments were in line with Singapore legislation used as the basis for the rest of the Act.
He added the new gaming commission had no objection to the amendments.
Mr Hayward also questioned “why is it when the PLP attempts to do something it’s marred with this level of controversy”.
He added that the PLP was accountable to the public and that the direction of gambling must be in line with the will of the people. Michelle Simmons, an independent senator, said that the commission was “essentially a quango” with a minister responsible for its actions.
She added: “The BCGC must have a degree of independence to get on with what it’s responsible for, but there’s also a need for the commission to be able to work with the minister that is responsible for the establishment of said commission.”
Ms Simmons said she backed the amendments and that it was a matter of best practice to have a legislated method to remove a commissioner.
She added: “When you make an appointment, you also need to have the means for removing or adjusting those appointments.”
But the OBA’s Andrew Simons also branded the legislation as an attack on the commission’s independence.
PLP senator Kathy Simmons, the Attorney-General, questioned claims that the amendments would damage the island’s international reputation.
She claimed public comments by the outgoing Gaming Commissioner Alan Dunch were more damaging.
She said much of the debate had become a battle of personalities.
Ms Simmons said: “Let’s stick to the details of the Bill. Let’s stick to best practice.”
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