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OBA demands answers over broken casino pledge

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OBA leader Cole Simons has questioned why the island still does not have a casino (File photograph)

The Opposition last night claimed ‘there is a smoke screen preventing the people of Bermuda from the truth’ over the delay in the opening of a casino.

One Bermuda Alliance leader Cole Simons also accused Mr Burt of a possible conflict of interest on the issue because the Premier is Tourism Minister which means he is responsible for the Bermuda Gaming Commission.

Despite Mr Burt predicting on three occasions that a casino would open at the St Regis Hotel, St George’s, this year, the resort has confirmed that will not now happen in that time frame.

Mr Simons said: “It is of no surprise that the island will remain without casinos for the duration of 2021. It seems yet again, there is a smoke screen preventing the people of Bermuda from the truth.

“Based on the recent comment from the spokeswoman from the St Regis Hotel that all regulating bodies and the banks are in alignment, the question remains, what is the reason for the delay?

“Again, we’d like to point out that there is a possible conflict of interest when the Premier, who is also the Minister of Tourism and has gaming as an amenity in the tourism portfolio, is also responsible for the Ministry that regulates gaming.

“Why is the Premier and Minister of Tourism also responsible for the Bermuda Gaming Commission?

“The country and the Opposition want and deserve answers to this very important question.

“If the Gaming Commission is shifted to the Minister of Finance, Bermuda should finally be poised to open the Gaming industry with cashless gaming using credit cards only at this time.”

OBA chief Cole Simons (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

Mr Burt made predictions in January, May and September that the casino would be up and running in 2021.

He told MPs in the autumn: “It’s my hope, dream and expectation that we will have a casino opening before the end of the year.”

However, a spokeswoman for the St Regis Hotel said that while the situation was “moving forward“ and the Bermuda Gaming Commission, banks and Government were “aligned”, the project would not be completed in 2021.

The spokeswoman was unable to give a timeline for when the casino might open.

Mr Burt has now taken a more restrained stance on the initiative saying that the consideration of a casino license is “solely a matter for the Bermuda Gaming Commission”, meaning it would be “inappropriate” for the minister responsible for gaming to comment on the matter.

Jump-starting the casino industry was a plank of the PLP’s 2020 election platform which under Tourism said: “Finally launching our casino industry, supported by the Bermuda National Digital Bank, which will provide jobs for Bermudians.”

The Premier’s comments in September came as MPs approved legislative changes that emerged after talks among the commission, the Government and island banks about the processing of gambling cash.

Mr Burt said at the time: “The ability to do so is dependent on the willingness and support of correspondent banks to allow for the movement of funds in and out of Bermuda.

“It has been proposed by one local banking institution that in order to gain support of a correspondent bank a change of the law as proposed could assist.”

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Published December 02, 2021 at 7:56 am (Updated December 02, 2021 at 7:17 am)

OBA demands answers over broken casino pledge

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