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Hearing for Paradise permit

Paradise Games on Court Street (File photograph)

The licence for a bookmaker’s shop run by former Progressive Labour Party leader Marc Bean will hang in the balance on Monday when the permit for the popular Court Street betting shop is due to expire.

The Betting Licensing Authority ruled yesterday that management at Court Street’s Paradise Games must file a detailed account of their business at an eleventh-hour hearing on April 1. Cornell Bean Sr, the manager of the betting shop, was also ordered to bring a letter from the Minister of Finance approving guarantees from no fewer than two people who back the shop’s business.

Eugene Johnston, lawyer for the shop, argued that the bookmaker, opened in 2014, had its licence renewed several times with less stringent requirements.

The authority, headed by Juan Wolffe, the senior magistrate, also heard there was confusion over who in the Bermuda Government was responsible for the approval of betting shops.

Mr Johnston said there had been “uncertainty” over whether responsibility had been transferred to the Bermuda Casino Gaming Commission.

Curtis Dickinson, the Minister of Finance, told the House of Assembly this month that the Betting Licensing Authority would be brought under the commission’s wing.

Mr Johnston said yesterday that Paradise Games management had been “sent to multiple departments and given a bit of a runaround”.

He added: “It’s something they have been battling with since January of this year.”

Mr Wolffe has insisted at previous hearings that Mr Dickinson had responsibility for betting shops.

Authority over betting shops has shuffled between several ministries over the past year.

Mr Johnston told the authority that Paradise Games, which brought a single guarantee to the authority yesterday, had renewed its licence in the same way six times before without problems.

He added: “The minister has continually said this is acceptable to him.”

But Mr Wolffe said a letter sent by the authority to the shop’s lawyers, Smith Bean and Co, in March 2017 had asked them to detail the minister’s approval.

He added: “It’s not the first time we have raised this. Maybe some leniency was extended to your client back then.”

Mr Wolffe, alongside authority members Elizabeth Christopher and Peter Barrett, questioned Mr Bean on the running of Paradise Games, including its use of United States lotteries.

Mr Wolffe said a letter from Smith Bean and Co maintained that the use of American lotteries was acceptable under Bermuda’s 1975 Act. But he added the association between the lawyer Simone Smith Bean and Marc Bean, her husband, made the opinion “not an independent or natural opinion”.

Cornell Bean told the authority that Paradise Games ran fixed-odds betting on two, three and four-ball state lotteries, with the house paying out a maximum of $25,000 from its own takings.

He added the shop no longer offered multimillion jackpots through US intermediaries for Bermudian customers to try their luck in the US Powerball Lottery.

A special report by The Royal Gazette in May 2018 highlighted concerns by an American gaming lawyer that the practice broke the law.

Cornell Bean told the authority yesterday that the big money US lottery had been dropped in June or July of last year.

He added the shop used numbers drawn in US lotteries only for fixed-odds bets, and that Paradise Games, which is popular with seniors, typically took a maximum bet of $300.

Cornell Bean said that customers were not permitted to top up their accounts without using the cash for gaming.

Mr Wolffe ordered the shop’s management to produce detailed accounts of its operations at the start of next week.

He warned them they had “leg work between now and Monday”.