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MPs back new regime for casino gambling

(AP Photo/Wayne Parry)

Legislation to pave the way for casinos was approved by MPs yesterday – but the Premier warned the industry would need to grow for the Government to reap its benefits.

David Burt told the House of Assembly the regulatory requirements for the industry were significant.

He said that the former One Bermuda Alliance government’s proposals were ”not based on realistic expectations of a gaming industry.”

Mr Burt added: “We have to recognise that we have only one prospective casino at this point in time.

“Setting up the regulatory burden to make sure that we comply with international obligations is difficult, so I would say the regulatory burden right now does not match up to the revenue that will be collected.”

He said the plan was to expand the sector with more casinos – which would boost income.

But he warned the cost of regulation would be more than the most optimistic early projections.

Mr Burt said: “This is not something right now that is generating a profit for the country.

“On a broad basis, with amenities for hotel properties and the opportunities for employment it will provide, it will probably result in an overall benefit to the country, but these are investments that need to be made to improve the regulatory framework.”

Mr Burt said the Gaming (Transfer of Functions) Act would expand the Bermuda Casino Gaming Commission’s remit to include betting shops, cruise ship casinos, lotteries and raffles and the traditional Crown and Anchor, as well as casinos.

The organisation’s name will also be changed to the Bermuda Gaming Commission to reflect the extra responsibilities.

Mr Burt said it was still expected that the first casino would open at the new St Regis hotel in St George’s in the summer.

MPs heard the assessment for the hotel’s casino licence was about 60 per cent complete.

Cole Simons, the Leader of the Opposition, said the OBA supported the amendments – and that an expansion of the commission’s remit was “the right thing to do”.

But he highlighted the slow progress on casinos since 2015 and raised questions about “cashless gaming” and how it would be implemented.

Mr Simons added that the Problem Gaming Council was in place to provide a safety net for people who got in over their heads with gambling.

Scott Pearman, the Shadow Minister of Legal Affairs and Transport, asked if the Problem Gaming Council get more funding as the legislation would increase its workload.

Jarion Richardson, the Shadow Minister for Home Affairs and Labour, asked how the casinos would affect the island’s international ratings on money laundering.

Mr Burt said risk assessments were made before the legislation was put forward and the results helped to form the framework.

He added that the remit of the Problem Gaming Council had been expanded to cover all gambling rather than just casino gaming.

Mr Burt said: “We don’t want it to just be casinos. The funding matters will be left to the Commission, so I am not going to prejudge about how those allocations will be made.”

The House heard that friendly bets and private poker games would continue as normal, and the Commission would not regulate private online gaming.

E-gaming will also be available on licensed casino premises.

Mr Burt said the Act it updated 1975 legislation to comply with international standards and gave power to the commission to ensure that the industry was “fair and honest”, including approval of betting equipment and rules.

The legislation also prohibited ATMs in casinos, alcohol service and bans people aged under 18 from betting premises.

The legislation will also allow a right to appeal decisions of the regulator and brings Bermuda into line with anti-money laundering and terrorist financing rules.

Mr Burt said there would be no increase in fees for current licence holders, but new entrants to the market will have to pay $2,500.

The Betting Fees Regulations 2021 were also passed by the House.

Mr Burt said the rulebook would provide a framework for the recovery of costs by the Commission for work such as investigations and licensing.

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Published May 08, 2021 at 8:10 am (Updated May 08, 2021 at 8:10 am)

MPs back new regime for casino gambling

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