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Law changes won’t be enough to get casinos open, says insider

David Burt, the Premier and finance minister, has announced changes to Bermuda’s gaming laws (File Photograph)

David Burt’s attempt to change the law so that gaming is designated officially as under his control as finance minister cannot work, a well-placed industry insider has said.

The Premier used the Budget speech last week to announce that legislation would be altered to make it clear that casinos would be explicitly under the remit of the finance minister.

The move comes despite several hotel and banking insiders repeatedly stating that the Premier’s perceived closeness to the Bermuda Gaming Commission has damaged the organisation’s appearance of independence and stopped the US “correspondent banks” needed to deal with monies from casinos on the island from becoming involved.

A well-placed source told The Royal Gazette: “As an industry insider, the obstacle we have is that the Premier is the finance minister and that he has gaming under him.

“If this changed, if this was different, the problem with correspondent banks would be sorted out.

“The portfolio needs to be moved to the economic and labour minister, or the tourism minister, then we could move forward with casinos.”

The comments came as Mr Burt announced that he would rewrite legislation to enshrine in law that the finance minister was responsible for the gaming sector.

The proposed changes would also allow would-be casino operators to decide what type of gambling hub they wanted to seek a licence for.

The Premier told MPs that there were obstacles that seem “designed to prevent” casinos from being established in Bermuda.

The Government previously changed laws surrounding the gaming commission in 2017, when commissioners were made to take “direction” from ministers who could hire and fire them.

Mr Burt, who previously predicted that a casino would be open on the island by the end of 2021, said that rules needed shaking up.

Noting that efforts to create a casino sector went back nine years, the Premier told MPs in the Budget Statement: “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.”

The One Bermuda Alliance has insisted that the finance minister should not be responsible for the gaming industry.

Critics of the government stance have warned that the BGC is not seen as sufficiently independent from ministerial control which has worried US banks and deterred them from getting involved with casinos on the island.

The creation of a casino industry has been highlighted by the Premier as one of the Government’s four key drivers of economic growth in the near future.

Mr Burt and Vance Campbell, the tourism minister, met executives operating the St Regis resort in January regarding the hotel’s plans for a casino.

Century Casinos backed out of an eight-year involvement in trying to set up the island’s first casino at the Hamilton Princess in January.

Charmaine Smith, the BGC chief executive, has repeatedly refused to answer specific questions on the casino situation in Bermuda.

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Published February 23, 2023 at 11:18 am (Updated February 23, 2023 at 11:18 am)

Law changes won’t be enough to get casinos open, says insider

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