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Minister addresses regulators’ independence

Before an audience of hundreds of business delegates, Jamahl Simmons said Government will not interfere with independent regulatory organisations in Bermuda.

He gave the assurance after explaining why he had brought to Parliament the Casino Gaming Amendment Act 2017, which made alterations to the relationship between the Bermuda Government and the Bermuda Casino Gaming Commission.

The Minister of Economic Development and Tourism said the Act had been amended from the one he tabled last month “because we now have a relationship with the gaming commission that is based on mutual trust and respect”.

The Act, as previously tabled, would have allowed the Government to give policy direction to the commission and fire members who did not follow legal directions issued by the Government.

Those proposed changes caused an outcry. Alan Dunch resigned as chairman of the commission, as did his deputy Garry Madeiros and another commissioner, Derek Ramm.

Before resigning, Mr Dunch warned that the amendments were a “potentially sad and seriously backward misstep” and would compel the commission to give up its independence.

On Friday, during a question-and-answer session at the EY Global (Re)Insurance Outlook forum, Jessel Mendes, of EY, asked Mr Simmons: “When government gets involved, does that take away from the credibility of the regulator?”

Mr Simmons said the adjusted Act, which was passed by MPs later that day, meant that the ability of the minister to direct the commission would now only be in written form, as it is for the Bermuda Monetary Authority.

“The legislation has evolved to reflect exactly the BMA. So there will be no whispered conversations in the hall, there will be none of that. All the transactions have to be transparent,” he said.

“As to the removal of members, we have reduced the overall broadness of it and given specific reasons.”

As an example of reasons, he said bringing the reputation of the government or the country into disrepute.

Mr Simmons told the audience at the Hamilton Princess that by working with the new gaming commission team it had been possible to craft something “that they were comfortable with, and that we were comfortable with”.

He added: “I will not have the capacity to decide who gets a licence and who doesn't. I will not have the capacity to decide if an investigation continues or not.

“It is merely to ensure that when things need to be delivered from a governmental standpoint we have the ability to provide direction — and the ability to remove members based on specific criteria as you see in other jurisdictions.

“I want to know that if someone wants to do business with Bermuda I can send them to a body I can trust to provide them with advice I can trust, and [who] will be responsive to the needs of Government in terms of its responsibilities.”

Mr Mendes, partner and regional growth markets leader, financial service organisation, EY, then asked: “So there is no risk of creep into other regulatory bodies; getting involved in the BMA and others?”

Mr Simmons said: “No. It's not about being able to dictate, it's about being able to work together.”

Talking point: Jamahl Simmons, left, with Jessel Mendes, of EY, at the EY Global (Re)Insurance Outlook forum. Mr Simmons explained the rationale behind the controversial Casino Gaming Amendment Act 2017 (Photograph by Scott Neil)

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Published December 12, 2017 at 8:00 am (Updated December 11, 2017 at 7:21 pm)

Minister addresses regulators’ independence

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