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Scott wants Simmons casino explanation

Demanding explanation: Leah Scott questions motive of Jamahl Simmons (Photo by Mark Tatem)

Shadow tourism minister Leah Scott has called on Jamahl Simmons to explain why he wants Alan Dunch to resign as chairman of the Bermuda Casino Gaming Commission.

Mr Simmons has tried to oust Mr Dunch three times since being appointed tourism minister in July, according to letters and e-mails obtained by The Royal Gazette.

The minister had told Mr Dunch — who publicly questioned the intentions of MM&I, the firm involved in a controversial bid for a lucrative government gaming contract — that his comments were “not in the best interests of the Government”.

Mr Simmons has declined to say why he asked Mr Dunch to resign, or whether the Government is in talks with MM&I despite concerns from the gaming commission.

Ms Scott said in a statement: “What is the minister’s real motivation for wanting to remove the current chairman?

“If this Government is truly for Mr and Mrs Bermuda and putting Bermudians first, I would have thought that the position taken by the chairman in respect of MM&I would have been lauded, and not chastised.”

In a special report last month, The Royal Gazette reported how MM&I stands to net tens of millions of dollars a year if it is given the contract to provide a cashless gaming network management system for any casinos that open on the island.

The gaming commission has warned the deal could damage Bermuda’s financial reputation and highlighted that people associated with its partner firm, Banyan Gaming, have surrendered their gaming licences in major gambling jurisdictions in the United States.

MM&I reached an agreement with the One Bermuda Alliance government while Mark Pettingill, who represents MM&I, and Mr Pettingill’s business partner, the late Shawn Crockwell, were both in Cabinet.

The memorandum of understanding was terminated by the OBA in July 2016 following advice from the gaming commission.

In the following months, Mr Dunch publicly locked horns over the matter with Mr Pettingill and Mr Crockwell, as well as Zane DeSilva, now a PLP Cabinet minister, who helped organise a public gaming forum in which Banyan representatives were introduced as experts.

Mr Dunch, whose contract expires in May 2019, has said he has no intention of resigning and did not believe there was any statutory basis to remove him.

According to the Casino Gaming Act, members can only be disqualified from the commission if they are incapable of managing their affairs, or for bankruptcy reasons, or if they are convicted of a dishonesty offence.

Ms Scott said: “To the best of my knowledge, information and belief, the chairman is not incapable of managing himself or his affairs, he is not an undischarged bankrupt, nor has he been convicted of an offence involving dishonesty, fraud or moral turpitude.”

She added that Mr Simmons had stated his main priority was to ensure gaming regulations are in place and to protect Bermuda’s reputation.

She said: “This is also the goal of Mr Dunch, the current chairman. The views of the minister and the chairman are not diametrically opposed.

“So I humbly request that the minister inform the Bermuda public of the real reasons he is requesting the chairman’s resignation.”

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