Finance takes control of the gaming industry
Oversight of Bermuda’s casino gambling industry has been handed to the finance minister as part of the Cabinet reshuffle.
Curtis Dickinson took responsibility for the sector, which previously came under the tourism ministry.
The newly appointed Minister of Finance counts the Bermuda Casino Gaming Commission among his duties, but the switch raised eyebrows from Opposition members, who feared the industry will never get off the ground.
David Burt, the Premier, announced a Cabinet shake-up two weeks ago and brought in Mr Dickinson, who became an MP only in June when he won a by-election in Warwick North East.
He also returned Zane DeSilva to the front benches in the role Minister of Tourism and Transport, nine months after he quit as social development and sport minister.
The tourism brief was taken from Jamahl Simmons, who became Minister without Portfolio, while Walter Roban, the Deputy Premier, was relieved of his transport duties.
Leah Scott, the One Bermuda Alliance deputy leader, said: “Casino gaming has always fallen under the purview of the tourism ministry, starting with the establishment of the gaming commission by the One Bermuda Alliance and continued with minister Jamahl Simmons, under the PLP government.
“So why has the administration of this important source of potential revenue been taken away from the new tourism minister and his ministry? We have been led to believe that in light of the correspondent bank challenges that Bermuda banks are facing with regard to the processing of gaming proceeds, that gaming would be better suited to come under the auspices of the Minister of Finance.
“I’d like to know how moving casino gaming from the tourism ministry to the finance ministry addresses the correspondent banking challenge.”
It was understood Bermuda banks have been hesitant about involvement in the island’s fledgeling gaming industry and overseas options have been considered.
Ms Scott, who is also the shadow minister for tourism, transport and regulatory affairs, continued: “If moving gaming to finance is a means of potentially resolving the correspondent banking issue, then logic dictates that the development of the medical marijuana industry and crypto currency would also fall under the Ministry of Finance.
“After all, the Bermuda banks have indicated that in addition to gaming, the proceeds that may be generated from medical marijuana and cryptocurrency are also unbankable.
“The issue with Bermuda’s correspondent banks refusing to process gaming proceeds is not a new issue. The Premier is merely playing musical ministries.
“Minister DeSilva is an extremely capable and successful businessman.
“Why would gaming be removed from his care and feeding? Does the Premier not think that Minister DeSilva can get the job done when it comes to casino gaming?”
Parliament passed an amendment to the Casino Gaming Act 2014 last year that means the responsible minister can fire members of the BCGC and issue policy direction to the regulatory body.
Alan Dunch, who had been commission chairman, quit his post after the legislation was tabled.
Last month, the BCGC advertised the position of executive director for a third time more than a year after Richard Schuetz, the former holder, resigned.
Ms Scott concluded: “Sadly, it is my view that casino gaming will never be a reality for Bermuda.
“Some 15 months have now passed, and we are still without a casino gaming executive director, despite multiple international adverts being placed in an effort to fill the post.
“The reality is that when a regulatory body that was intentionally established to be independent, is subsequently required to answer to any politician or political party, the possibility of corruption becomes a realistic probability.”
A government spokeswoman said: “In order for gaming to become a reality in Bermuda, a solution needs to be found so the proceeds of gaming can be banked.
“The Minister of Finance, Curtis Dickinson MP, as a banker, understands the industry’s needs and the Government’s objectives, and will work with all stakeholders to implement a solution for Bermuda’s gaming industry.”