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BCB investors: no plans with regard to gaming

A New York investment firm that is in the process of buying Bermuda Commercial Bank has “no plans with regard to gaming”, one of its principals insisted yesterday.

Lewis Katz, managing partner of Permanent Capital, was asked by The Royal Gazette to comment on a statement made in Parliament on Friday by finance minister Curtis Dickinson, who said the Bermuda Casino Gaming Commission had “engaged in discussions” with BCB and two other local banks about accepting the proceeds of casino gaming.

Mr Katz said: “We are still in the process of obtaining governmental and regulatory approvals to purchase BCB, we do not yet own the bank and have no plans with regards to gaming. We respect BCB, their board and management, and otherwise defer to them.”

BCB CEO Hubert Esperon said: “In 2018, Bermuda Commercial Bank Limited met with the gaming commission. This meeting was mainly to explore the opportunity and challenges of the potential introduction of gaming to the island. As mentioned before, Bermuda Commercial Bank Limited has no plans at this time to bank the gaming industry in Bermuda.”

The securing of a local bank with a US correspondent bank willing to accept the proceeds of casino gambling has long been viewed as a major hurdle for the Government and the commission as they attempt to get the island's fledgeling casino industry off the ground.

Mr Dickinson told the House of Assembly last week: “As a high priority, the commission has engaged in discussions with three local banks, namely the Bank of NT Butterfield, Clarien Bank and the Bermuda Commercial Bank to secure a local bank with a US correspondent bank relationship that would accept the proceeds of the casino gaming operations.

“Further discussion will be carried out with the BMA (Bermuda Monetary Authority) as banking regulator and the US correspondent banks.”

HSBC took a global decision to limit its involvement with the gambling sector, while Clarien and Butterfield have yet to commit to any involvement.

A Butterfield spokesman told The Royal Gazette: “We can confirm we are engaged in ongoing dialogue with the commission but have no additional comment at this time.”

A spokesman for Clarien Bank said: “We continue to work with all of the various stakeholder groups in order to inform our risk appetite for this sector.”

The Royal Gazette asked New York-based Signature Bank, which is to offer banking services to Bermuda's fintech start-ups, if it had plans to handle the proceeds of casino gaming on the island.

Spokeswoman Susan Turkell said today: “We are not banking gaming companies.”

It was announced last month that Permanent Capital had struck a deal to buy BCB from parent company Somers Ltd, with plans to grow the business and expand its services.

Mark Pettingill, Permanent's lead counsel in Bermuda, said then that providing banking services to the gaming industry was “unequivocally not part of the business plan”.

However, he added: “The bank is open to banking any industry, as long as it meets all Bermuda regulatory requirements.”

Bermudian businessmen John Tartaglia and Michael Moniz have been named on a notice to incorporate Permanent Capital Holdings Ltd, a local affiliate company of Permanent Capital.

The pair own MM&I Holdings, a company that was poised to make tens of millions of dollars from a controversial casinos deal with the Government.

They attempted to land a lucrative contract to provide a cashless gaming system to any casinos that opened in Bermuda, as outlined in a special report in The Royal Gazette in October 2017.

Mr Moniz and Mr Tartaglia were listed on the notice of incorporation alongside Mr Pettingill and Grant Spurling, both lawyers from Chancery Legal law firm, and Mr Katz and Logan Sugarman, of Permanent Capital.

A spokesman for Permanent Capital said Mr Tartaglia and Mr Moniz were directors of a local holding company that was being used to enable the merger agreement to go ahead, and neither they, Mr Pettingill nor Mr Spurling would be the ultimate owners of BCB once the transaction was completed.

The ultimate owners, it was stated, would be Mr Katz, Mr Sugarman and Bermudian-based businessman Chris Maybury.

Mr Sugarman's involvement in the purchase was nixed by Permanent Capital, after the Florida-based Offshore Alert website revealed details of US lawsuits and judgments relating to him.

Update: This article has been amended to include a comment from BCB CEO Hubert Esperon. Mr Esperon e-mailed the comment to The Royal Gazette on March 5 but it was not received. The e-mail was resent this morning. It has also been updated to include a comment from Signature Bank

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Published March 07, 2019 at 8:00 am (Updated March 07, 2019 at 1:46 pm)

BCB investors: no plans with regard to gaming

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