Premier signals law changes to kick-start island’s casino industry
David Burt has signalled that a controversial government shake-up of casino legislation has not delivered the goods when it comes to creating a gaming sector on the island.
The Premier, who is also the finance minister, used his Budget address on Friday to say there were obstacles that seem “designed to prevent” casinos from being established in Bermuda.
But according to the One Bermuda Alliance, Mr Burt’s proposals to again change gaming laws to try and kick-start a casino industry do not go far enough.
The Government last overhauled legislation in this area with the Casino Gaming Amendment Act 2017, which gave ministers greater control over regulators and allowed them to hire and fire Bermuda gaming commissioners.
Referring to the reforms brought in by the Progressive Labour Party more than five years ago, Mr Burt said: “Almost nine years after the previous administration passed the Gaming Act, Bermuda does not have a casino.
“Amendments made since that time have not been enough to address the obstacles that seem designed to prevent this industry from taking hold in this jurisdiction.”
Mr Burt said that potential casino operators must be allowed to decide their own business models and the legislation should emphasise that the sector was under the remit of the finance minister.
He told the House of Assembly: “What is clear is that having the integrated resort model as the only available option for casino operation in Bermuda is a flaw in the inherited regime.
“The law must be amended to permit potential casino operators to choose the model that best suits the intended venue for their casino.
“Likewise, the law must be amended to permit the gaming commission the flexibility to consider and grant licences on that basis.
“To reinforce the regulatory responsibilities of the commission, these amendments will be accompanied by a revised definition of minister in the Act to establish the Minister of Finance as the minister, similar to the Bermuda Monetary Authority.
“It is anticipated that these changes will address impediments to operational and business support for gaming in Bermuda.”
Several well-placed business and hotel industry insiders have told The Royal Gazette that the perception of government control over the BGC is the main obstacle to setting up casinos on the island.
Cole Simons, the One Bermuda Alliance leader, said a finance minister should not be responsible for gaming.
He told a post-Budget press conference: “The fundamental problems of gaming in this country have not changed — the banking infrastructure is not in place to support it.
“I would take the responsibility for gaming away from the finance minister and the Premier — that is what they (the banks) are asking for.”
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