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Gaming legislation on its way, says Dickinson

Legislation tackling gaming in Bermuda is coming, the finance minister said.

And Curtis Dickinson confirmed that the sector would use a cashless system.

Mr Dickinson said that the Government was “finishing up” work to sort out banking issues that surround gaming.

He added: “There is a bunch of work that is being done on betting. That legislation will come before this chamber in due course.”

The update was provided in the House of Assembly as MPs debated the Opposition's Budget Reply on Friday night.

Mr Dickinson, who has had oversight of the Bermuda Casino Gaming Commission for the past 16 months, said that political influence had not slowed progress.

He added: “I can say categorically that I have never interfered in any decisions that the commission has taken.”

Mr Dickinson said that it was important to discuss honestly what had happened at the BCGC.

He explained: “It is not uncommon in the corporate world, or in government, when there is a change in leadership, that the new leader may want to put in place their own team.

“That's what happened here — no more, no less.

“And what usually happens is the team in place typically honours the request of the new leadership. That didn't happen in this case.”

Alan Dunch, a director at MJM law firm, quit as chairman of the BCGC in November 2017, days after the Government tabled legislation to oust him and put the commission under ministerial control.

Richard Schuetz, an American casino industry veteran, resigned as executive director of the commission on the morning of the General Election in July 2017.

He stayed in the post until the end of that year.

Mr Dickinson said a narrative that political interference was to blame for banks not getting involved with the sector was “patently untrue”.

He told MPs that in late 2016 the Bermuda Bankers Association said that it was “not prepared to bank gaming in Bermuda”.

Mr Dickinson said that the BBA indicated that one organisation would not get behind the move, while two others, including Butterfield Bank, indicated they were willing to work on the issue.

He said: “I know this because I was an executive vice-president in charge of treasury for Butterfield Bank.”

The minister said that he, along with late tourism minister Shawn Crockwell, Mr Dunch and Mr Schuetz, travelled to New York City to meet with representatives from the Bank of New York, Butterfield's lead co-respondent bank.

Mr Dickinson said: “The Bank of New York explained to us their reticence around gaming. It's a high-risk activity, and they didn't want to expose their organisation to it.

“That was part of the reason why Butterfield was cautious about it.”

He added: “Over the course of my 16 months, we have been working through the issues.”

Mr Dickinson said that, while still in the private sector, he had encouraged the BCGC to consider using a cashless model.

He explained: “It minimises the risk.”

However, he said that advice was not taken by Mr Dunch.

Mr Dickinson added: “The policy position for gaming now is that it is going to have a cashless system.”

He said that Bermuda was “steps away from having a solution in place”.

He said: “We would have had one in place, but for the fact that the operators wanted a change in the construct that needed to be fleshed out with the banks.

“Discussions were had, the banks made their position very clear, and we now are on the fringes of having a solution for gaming in Bermuda.”

Mr Dickinson also disputed any suggestion that staff at the BCGC had been “sitting around dithering for the better part of two years”.

He added that there was also an “assertion” that legislation and regulations were ready to be put in place when the Progressive Labour Party became the Government after the General Election in 2017.

Mr Dickinson said: “The team seems to think otherwise.

“Given that they were the ones working on the legislation and the regulations, I'm more inclined to support their version of the events than others.”w

Curtis Dickinson, the finance minister (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

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Published March 02, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated March 02, 2020 at 8:03 am)

Gaming legislation on its way, says Dickinson

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