Premier: first casino to open in 2021
Bermuda will get its first casino in 2021, the Premier has pledged.
David Burt said the island’s banks had been the only block to the gambling industry – for more than six years after the legislation was approved.
But he added that problems had been overcome and that the industry could get off the ground.
Mr Burt said: “Yes. I would hope so, without question.”
He added: “I am expecting certainly that we’ll have a casino, at least one casino, operating in Bermuda this year and we’ll continue to work on that.
“But it has not been easy. If it would have been easy, we would not be sitting here in 2021, about seven years after the former Government passed the Casino Gaming Act, without a casino in the country.”
He was speaking last Friday as he discussed the first 100 days since the Progressive Labour Party’s landslide General Election victory last October.
Mr Burt said the reluctance of banks to handle the profits from gambling was the same hurdle that the fintech industry faced.
The Premier, who also holds the tourism portfolio, said he was “pleased with the work that’s happened with the St Regis Hotel”, scheduled to open in the spring.
The developers of the resort in St George’s, have also planned for a casino.
But Laura Purroy, the general manager of developers Hotelco, has said a casino at the hotel was “contingent on certain decisions that are in the hands of Government”.
The Hamilton Princess Hotel has a provisional licence from the Bermuda Casino Gaming Commission.
The law requires casinos to be integrated with a resort, rather than standing alone, and up to four resorts could be licensed.
Jump-starting the casino industry was in the PLP’s 2020 election platform, where it was linked to the creation of a national digital bank.
Mr Burt said the Cabinet had approved a business plan for the digital bank last month, but that implementation was “not going to be an overnight project”.
He added a meeting on a national digital bank was planned for this week.
Mr Burt said: “But we want something broad-based, that diversifies the base of ownership.
“We believe it makes good financial sense for there to be a publicly affiliated financial institution that is able to provide broader based financial ownership to the country.”
Final touches for Bermuda’s gambling industry, including cashless betting, were approved in November 2019, when Curtis Dickinson, the finance minister, said “creative solutions” were in the works for the island’s banks and their corresponding overseas institutions.
Mr Burt said casinos had clear parallels with the bid to build a fintech industry, which is also still in the early stages.
He added: “Would I have liked this to go faster? Absolutely. No question about it. It’s one of the challenges, dealing with the systemic issues we have in Bermuda.
“We have a challenge when it comes to our banking structures, and a challenge when it comes to new, different and innovative industries having access to a financial system so they can transact their level of business.
“That’s been the holdback. It’s the same thing that’s been the holdback with gaming.”
The next Budget is due to be delivered on February 26.
Mr Burt said he had still to discuss the impact on the pre-Budget report and Budget caused by the death last week of Anthony Manders, the Financial Secretary.
He added: “Without question there be an impact and there certainly will be a void that has been left as he has been responsible for the supervision and preparation for the last ten, eleven twelve Budgets for the country.”
Mr Burt said: “Effectively, since 2010, he’s been running the Ministry of Finance.
“It is without question a shock, a challenge, and there will be an impact, unquestionably.”
Mr Burt warned it was possible to “balance a Budget and lose a country”.
He added: “You can certainly balance a Budget tomorrow, and have a whole lot of hungry people inside your country.
“We need to focus on not just budget-balancing, but on having a balanced society.”