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MM&I responds to Special Report

The firm bidding to provide a cashless gaming network for casinos in Bermuda claims it would retain only a “very small profit margin” from the tens of millions of dollars it stands to make.

Responding to a special report by The Royal Gazette yesterday, MM&I Holdings said it would give the vast majority of profits to “churches, community clubs, vulnerable citizens’ programmes, etc”.

In MM&I’s signed agreement with the Government — disclosed under public access to information and published by this newspaper yesterday — no reference was made to profits being given to churches, charities or programmes helping vulnerable people.

Yesterday, MM&I said the agreement was deemed null and void once the referendum on gaming was withdrawn by the One Bermuda Alliance government.

The Royal Gazette reported how gaming regulators fear a multimillion-dollar casinos deal involving the Government and MM&I remains on the table despite concerns it could damage the island’s financial reputation.

Our report revealed individuals associated with the company’s partner firm, Florida-based Banyan Gaming, previously surrendered their gaming licences in two gaming jurisdictions in the United States, which the Bermuda Casino Gaming Commission believes could create problems if they were licensed on the island.

Mark Pettingill, the former Attorney-General, whose law firm represents MM&I, and who was in Cabinet along with his business partner, Shawn Crockwell, when the deal was agreed with the Government, released a statement on behalf of MM&I Holdings Limited and its partners yesterday.

“It is true that MM&I would seek to earn a profit as a service provider to the gaming market in Bermuda. That is the nature of any good business,” the statement said.

“But it is also true that once MM&I reached the profit stage of its investment plan, 95 per cent of all profits would be donated to a government appointed Gaming Proceeds for Charity Committee to distribute the profits to churches, community clubs, vulnerable citizens’ programmes, etc.

“MM&I would have no say in who the money would go to. We would only serve to perform our services and collect the funds to make them available to the committee for disbursement.

“In fact, MM&I would retain a very small profit margin in reflection of our multimillion-dollar, upfront investment and necessary operating expenses for jobs, etc. Without hesitation, MM&I remains 100 per cent committed to ensuring that no overseas operator can enter the local gaming market and siphon off tens of millions of dollars out of our local economy and systemically erode our currency.

“We are also 100 per cent committed to establishing a legacy for Bermuda in that we implement a safe, responsible and controlled environment for gaming, including stringent anti-money laundering and vulnerable player controls.”

On the fact that MM&I provided a $30,000 donation towards a pro-gaming marketing campaign, at the request of Mr Crockwell, Mr Pettingill’s statement said: “It is true that MM&I donated $30,000 towards the ‘Yes’ for gaming and ‘Jobs Bermuda’ campaigns.

“We fully believe that the Bermuda public should be educated on gaming prior to the referendum and that there should have been a referendum on gaming.”

He said that MM&I and its partners were now seeking legal advice to claim significant damages because “the disclosure of confidential information” and comments made by the Bermuda Casino Gaming Commission “in a public forum” had severely impacted their ability to enter the gaming market in Bermuda.

This newspaper reported how Mr Crockwell had told his Cabinet colleagues it was imperative to proceed with MM&I because “no other local entity” could provide the same networking system. Responding, Mr Pettingill said: “It was always the understanding that any decision to have a central/cashless system in place would result in a proper public tendering process.

“This was made clear by the former entire Cabinet. MM&I followed the RFQ [request for qualifications] process and we are positioned to bid based on a tender request. To date it has not gotten to the stage of being tendered, as no decision has been reached by the new administration.”

The statement noted that MM&I is a “100 per cent owned and staffed Bermudian company” and said its MM&I references were never contacted by the Bermuda Casino Gaming Commission.

Our report revealed that the gaming commission was unimpressed after speaking to referees included in a joint RFQ submission by MM&I and Banyan.

Mr Pettingill’s statement continued: “So please ask yourself, is this a good deal for Bermuda? And why would anyone try and impact such a philanthropic and sensible approach to ensuring Bermuda’s future economic stability?

“We are asking for nothing up front and we are giving the vast majority of profits back to Bermuda and Bermudians.”

He said the group had tried to “educate the OBA government” by hosting them overseas for an in-depth system and casino operation information session, and the public at large via the Progressive Labour Party’s forum on responsible gaming on May 3 this year.

It said: “We have also strived to do the right thing for Bermuda, as this is our home. We are not an overseas entity trying to enter the market and extract tens of millions of dollars from Bermuda to fund offshore interests. We are here to stay and make sure that Bermuda is not adversely impacted by the gaming industry. Our philanthropic vision is that the disposable income that players spend on gaming is used to fund charities and community programmes in Bermuda for those who are struggling and/or in need of support.

“And we challenge the hotels who stand to make hundreds of millions of dollars from gaming to either match our vision or to make a significant contribution to Bermuda’s charities and community programmes from the proceeds of gaming.

“MM&I will be holding a public forum on its philanthropic-based gaming solution for Bermuda. This is an opportunity for Bermudians to help to form their own opinion on the best plan for Bermuda.”

Dates for the open forums are to be announced shortly.

The gaming commission disclosed records about the MM&I deal, including the agreement itself and e-mail correspondence, in response to a Pati request.

On occasion The Royal Gazette may decide to not allow comments on what we consider to be a controversial or contentious story. As we are legally liable for any libellous or defamatory comments made on our website, this move is for our protection as well as that of our readers.