Jamahl Simmons statement
Casino rules to be introduced without delay’
Regulations for casino gambling are to be introduced “without further delay”, tourism minister Jamahl Simmons told the House of Assembly yesterday.
Mr Simmons blamed past members of the Bermuda Casino Gaming Commission for delays leading to a “stumbling block” to finalising regulations.
Alan Dunch, the former commission chairman, told The Royal Gazette that the “real stumbling block in terms of moving matters forward was beyond the curtilage of the commission itself”.
Mr Dunch said the commission had completed its work a year ago and that he was surprised it had taken the Government so long to proceed.
Mr Simmons told Parliament: “Under new leadership, the Bermuda Casino Gaming Commission is working with the Attorney-General’s Chambers, via my ministry as the instructing government body, to ensure that these regulations are enacted without further delay.”
He added: “In fact, the Attorney-General’s Chambers and the commission have agreed that for expediency and without sacrificing due diligence in the drafting process, the prudent way forward would be to complete the drafting and enactment of the regulatory package, under the negative resolution procedure, in three phases.”
Grant Gibbons, the shadow economic development minister, asked why it had taken so long to finalise the regulations.
Mr Simmons replied: “Part of the delay was the unwillingness of members to work together to get a set of regulations that both the Gaming Commission and the Attorney-General’s Chambers could agree on.
“Once we began having a communication between those two bodies, things moved apace.”
Mr Dunch resigned as gaming commission chairman last November after Mr Simmons tabled legislation to give himself the power to oust him.
Mr Gibbons told MPs: “My understanding was that the regulations that the former government had done were pretty much finalised and were ready to go.”
Mr Simmons said: “The regulations that were sent over to the Attorney-General’s Chambers, to the previous government, were not legally acceptable based on their ruling at that time.
“When we took office, the same position held under the new Attorney-General and their group. There had to be co-operation between the two bodies to move past that.
“At one point you had the Casino Gaming Commission saying, ‘the regulations are fine, they are perfect’. You had the Attorney-General’s Chambers saying, ‘hold on, these need to be adjusted’. And so that has been adjusted.”
Mr Dunch said he found the suggestion that progress had stalled under his chairmanship “puzzling at best”.
He added: “With the exception of the phasing suggestion, there is nothing new in the detail provided by the minister and, indeed, one is left wondering why it has taken a further eight months to progress work that was in effect completed almost a year ago.”
Mr Dunch said the commission submitted a draft memorandum with 19 sets of regulations to Cabinet on May 31 last year, that the commission wanted to have “approved and tabled before Parliament pursuant to the negative resolution procedure, as provided for by the Act”.
He added that the regulations, produced with the help of international gaming experts, were “entirely in keeping with industry standards”.
Mr Dunch said: “They were presented in a manner which should have enabled immediate tabling before Parliament so as to have a comprehensive regulatory process in place prior to the licence applications process being completed.”
He explained that the commission was later asked to prepare a policy document for the Attorney-General’s Chambers that outlined policy considerations for each of the proposed sets of regulations.
Mr Dunch said this was completed on June 29, by which time the General Election had been called and Parliament dissolved.
He added: “Between the date of the election and the date of my relinquishment of the leadership of the commission, numerous efforts were made to move the regulatory process forward, all to no avail.
“The last that I heard was that the Attorney-General’s Chambers were reviewing the policy document and that the draft Cabinet memorandum would not be processed pending the review.
Mr Dunch concluded: “On any basis, it would therefore seem that the real ‘stumbling block’ in terms of moving matter forward was beyond the curtilage of the commission itself.”
Mr Simmons said in a ministerial statement yesterday that the regulatory framework designed for Bermuda was “in line with industry standards and with industry expectations”.
He added the first phase would include regulations that must be completed immediately “for the commission to commence the suitability stage of the licensing process”.
The second phase will consist of regulations that must be in force before casino construction can start and the final phase would need to be enacted before construction was completed and the casino opened.
Mr Simmons and the Bermuda Casino Gaming Commission did not respond to requests from The Royal Gazette for more detailed information about which industry standards were being used as a model for the regulations, what the regulations would contain or when they were expected to be completed.
The Royal Gazette also asked when Bermuda’s first casino was expected to open and whether a bank had agreed to back casinos on-island but got no response.
Cheryl-Ann Mapp, the new chairwoman of the BCGC, said last month that the BCGC had asked counterparts abroad for advice on alternatives to the island’s three banks, none of which have yet agreed to become involved in the industry.
• To read Jamahl Simmons’s statement in full, click on the PDF under “Related Media”
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