Bermuda’s Parliament Considers Casino Gaming Amendment

Sunday, November 12th, 2017 | Written by April Bergman
Bermuda’s Parliament Considers Casino Gaming Amendment

Jamahl Simmons, Bermuda’s Minister of Economic Development and Tourism, introduced a Casino Gaming Amendment to the House of Assembly this week. The bill would allow Simmons to dismiss commissioners sitting on the 5-member Bermuda Gaming Commission.

The chairman and the executive director of the Gaming Commission are backing a controversial land-based casino licensing process which MPs have criticized. The plan is to license 3 brick-and-mortar casinos, but commission members have disputed the size of the licensing fee (currently $10 million) and the nature of the casino (boutique casino or integrated resort).

While introducing the Casino Gaming Amendment, Minister Simmons claimed he had called on Commission Chairman Alan Dunch to resign on three occasions: in August, September, and October of 2017. Since Dunch had refused to resign, the new amendment would allow Jamahl Simmons to dismiss members of the Gaming Commission.

Casino Gaming Amendment 2017

In defending the proposed amendment, the Minister of Economic Development said the plan was needed to give the government control of the future of casino development in Bermuda. Simmons said the Casino Gaming Amendment would “allow the Government to give policy direction to the Casino Gaming Commission and will allow the Minster to remove members of the commission who do not follow legal directions issued by the Government.”

Jamahl Simmons addressed the ongoing rumors that the current Bermuda government would force operators to accept ‘cashless gaming’, stating, “In regards to the systematic media misinformation campaign that has brought negative attention to Bermuda and jeopardized our jurisdictional reputation, as I stated, Government is not considering making cashless gaming on the island mandatory for casino operators.”

Bermuda Gaming Commission’s Dispute with MPs

The dispute between Bermuda’s Parliament and the Gaming Commission has continued for months. Parliamentary MPs believe commissioners have taken the nascent gaming industry in the wrong direction since its inception in 2015. In their mind, the Bermuda Gaming Commission’s Executive Director, Richard Schuetz, and Chairman, Alan Dunch, have followed a corrupt policy while building the new gambling economy.

Much of the disagreement pivots on whether Bermuda should accept the “Singapore model” for land-based gaming. Singapore has many restrictions against residents gambling, while allowing tourists unrestricted gambling privileges. Some believe the Singapore model is the only way forward for Singapore, while others believe it will lead to a failed gaming industry.

$10 Million Casino Licensing Fee

The licensing fee of $10 million is another point of dispute. MP Shawn Crockwell claims that gaming experts had confided in him that a $10 million for boutique casinos is unacceptable. Crockwell claimed that top casino developers would stay away from the Bermuda gaming industry, if that was the setup. In May 2017, Shawn Crockwell said the commission, in its 18 months of operation, had not increased the “net worth in advancing the gaming product in Bermuda”.

Alan Dunch shot back at that assessment. Dunch noted that Crockwell and another critical MP, Mark Pettigill, were once members of the One Bermuda Party (OBP), but resigned and now sit in opposition as Independent lawmakers.

Alan Dunch Criticizes Shawn Crockwell

Citing that Crockwell and Pettigill were disgruntled, and thus had reasons to question the commission, Alan Dunch said, “In the 18-month period that the Bermuda Casino Gaming Commission has been fully operable, it has found itself the subject of criticism from time to time, largely from politicians and others who either know not what they speak of or are simply ill informed.”

“Others have their own vested interests. Whilst unfortunate, this is not entirely unexpected given the general lack of in-depth understanding on what is involved in creating a gaming industry from scratch and the natural tendency of people to be impatient.”

Tibor Vertes: Gaming Expert?

Shawn Crockwell cited Tibor Vertes, whom he described as an Australian gaming expert. The gaming commissioners disputed Tibor Vertes’s credentials as a gaming expert, though his Bloomberg News profile suggests that Tibor Vertes founded Gaming & Entertainment Group, Inc. in 1995, and thus has 22 years of experience in the industry. He is also described as a finance lawyer, but he has defended his business ties to disgraced Australian businessman Rodney Adler before.