Burt: cashless gambling on the way
David Burt has given himself responsibility for getting casinos up and running in Bermuda — and reiterated that only cashless gambling will be allowed in them.
The Premier announced as part of a Cabinet reshuffle yesterday that “consistent with my responsibilities for economic development I have assumed responsibility for the Bermuda Casino Gaming Commission”.
He told a press conference last night: “My vision is to get casino gaming up and running as quickly as possible.”
Mr Burt said the main issue preventing the casino industry from getting off the ground was local banks refusing to bank gaming proceeds.
He said that was why the commission was previously the responsibility of Curtis Dickinson, the Minister of Finance.
The Premier added: “The Minister of Finance in our meeting yesterday has assured me that they have made significant progress on those particular issues. I believe they've resolved to go forward with a cashless model and I think that the banks are comfortable around the compliance issues that surround that.”
Mr Dickinson, a former executive vice-president at Butterfield Bank, told the House of Assembly in February that when he worked in the private sector, he encouraged the BCGC to consider a cashless model. He said: “It minimises the risk.”
Mr Dickinson added: “The policy position for gaming now is that it is going to have a cashless system.”
The gaming commission had previously spoken out against a cashless system.
In September 2017, Alan Dunch, who was then the commission's chairman, said cashless systems were not favoured by casino operators.
Richard Schuetz, who was then executive director of the regulator, said they could increase the problem of gambling addiction because users placed more bets because they were “separated from the reality” of using cash.
A special report by The Royal Gazette in October 2017 revealed how the commission raised concerns about a potential multimillion-dollar casinos deal involving a cashless system.
The two companies offering the system — local firm MM & I Holdings and US-based Banyan Gaming — said in 2018 they no longer intended to get involved in Bermuda's gaming industry.
Mr Dunch and Mr Schuetz both left the commission in late 2017, with the latter yet to be replaced in the six-figure salary post.
Mr Burt is the third minister to take responsibility for gaming since the Progressive Labour Party came to power in July 2017.
Jamahl Simmons first held the brief as Minister of Economic Development and Tourism, followed by Mr Dickinson, who took over responsibility in November 2018.
Mr Burt said last night: “The reason why I put it to the Ministry of Finance in 2018 ... was very specifically because the main issue with casino gaming in Bermuda is not our reticence against casino gaming, it is the issue of solving the banking problem with casino gaming and the fact that local banks would not bank the proceeds of gaming.”
He added: “Now that the banking challenges have by and large been sorted or ironed out I think that it fits pretty well with my remit as the minister responsible for economic development in Bermuda.”
The Premier said he was happy to remove some of Mr Dickinson's heavy workload and aimed to “move the regulations forward and have casinos open in Bermuda”.
He added: “We know there are provisional licences that exist. We know that there are things that have to be moved forward in advancing that and now that we have the banking problem largely sewn up, I think we can move forward to advancing it.”