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Costs revealed of trip by casino executives

A trip to Bermuda by executives from Las Vegas casino giant Caesars cost the island's gaming regulator $2,000, according to records released under the Public Access to Information Act.

The visit by Caesars representatives Greg Miller and Jan Jones-Blackhurst took place last December after they were invited here by Bermuda Casino Gaming Commission chairman Alan Dunch and executive director Richard Schuetz.

The commission released an expense report and credit card statement, in response to a Pati request from The Royal Gazette, showing the commission picked up a $2,097 tab for taxis, gifts and meals during the three-day trip.

The payments included a $685 dinner at Ascots restaurant attended by Shawn Crockwell, Minister of Tourism at the time, along with Mr Miller, Ms Jones-Blackhurst, Mr Schuetz, lawyer Rhys Williams and Bermuda Tourism Authority chief investment officer Andy Burrows.

Mr Dunch said in a statement last month that the Caesars executives were invited by himself and Mr Schuetz to “visit the island to explore the possibility of investing in Bermuda and its people”. The invitation was extended while Mr Dunch and Mr Schuetz were in Las Vegas in September last year for meetings with large gaming operators, including Caesars.

Both trips prompted MPs to ask questions in the House of Assembly in June, with Opposition member Zane DeSilva asking why Caesars was invited here “to set up business” at a time when it was involved in highly public bankruptcy struggles.

His Progressive Labour Party colleague Derrick Burgess noted that Ms Jones-Blackhurst, a former mayor of Las Vegas and now executive vice-president of government relations and corporate responsibility for Caesars, was once married to Mr Schuetz.

Mr Dunch's statement last month said the pair remained friends, having been divorced for more than a decade, and any suggestion of a conflict of interest was bewildering and without basis. This newspaper's June 29 Pati request was for all records held by the Bermuda Casino Gaming Commission concerning the visit to Bermuda by the Caesars executives, including details of who came, who paid for the trip, who instigated it and any cost incurred by the publicly funded regulator.

We asked for correspondence between Mr Schuetz and Caesars executives, as well as when the trip happened, what it entailed and who met with the Caesars representatives.

Deborah Blakeney, the commission's information officer, responded on August 9 to say: “The documentation held by the commission as regards the preparation and discussions arranging the Caesars trip to Bermuda is minimal, as the commission was, at that point in time, in an embryonic stage and had just recently secured office space and was operating without a computer system/server.

“Therefore, much of the communication between the parties was made via telephone and, as you will see from the documentation, through the use of personal e-mails.”

Her letter stated that Caesars Entertainment paid for Mr Miller, its executive vice-president of domestic development, and Ms Jones-Blackhurst to visit Bermuda, including their airfare, hotel accommodation and “all incidentals”.

Ms Blakeney added: “The trip entailed a tour of the commission offices, meetings over lunch and dinner, together with tours of the island to look at potential designated [gaming] sites and/or possible locations for casinos.”

The e-mail correspondence shared under Pati includes an October 16 message from Mr Schuetz to Ms Jones-Blackhurst in which he wrote: “Hate to be such a nag but wondered if you had come closer to determining a date for Bermuda.”

Once a date was agreed, he recommended the two executives stay at the Hamilton Princess. Mr Dunch said last month he feared the questions in Parliament about Caesars may have convinced the company it was not welcome on the island.

Expense report: Richard Schuetz, chairman of the Bermuda Casino Gaming Commission (Photograh by Akil Simmons)

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Published August 24, 2016 at 9:00 am (Updated August 24, 2016 at 11:41 am)

Costs revealed of trip by casino executives

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