Bermuda Government presents legislation bill for Casinos

Bernews BermudaThe Bill related to the establishment of legalized casino gaming will not be tabled during this session, Minister of Tourism Development & Transport Shawn Crockwell said in the House of Assembly on the 18th July.

In providing an update on the progress that has been made on the Gaming legislation, the Minister said the  ”enabling legislation is the most important component in ensuring we have the best regime and administrative structure to effectively oversee the domestic casino gaming industry.”

“In December of last year the Government made the decision to proceed with the establishment of legalized casino gaming through the parliamentary process. This was a difficult decision for the Government but we are confident it was the right decision for Bermuda,” continued Minister Crockwell.

“A Gaming Legislative Drafting Committee, which I will refer to as [GLDC] has been formed with the oversight of the Permanent Secretaries of the Ministry of Tourism Development and Transport, the Attorney General’s Chambers and the Ministry of Legal Affairs.

“In addition to the representatives from the previously mentioned ministries, the GLDC includes representatives from the Ministry of Finance and Management Consulting Services with its main objective to draft primary legislation with the intent for it to be tabled before the end of the current legislative session.

The Minister said  a draft Bill is completed, and they are using the Singapore Legislation as a guide which has “greatly assisted in the production of the draft Bill.”

“The Bill will not be tabled during this session and I make no apologies because the enabling legislation is the most important component in ensuring we have the best regime and administrative structure to effectively oversee the domestic casino gaming industry.

“We will continue with our work to finalize the Bill which will be augmented by the regulations necessary to comprehensively establish and regulate the gaming industry with the intent for both primary and secondary legislation to be tabled when parliament reconvenes.

“This will keep the Government on track to have the entire statutory structure, i.e. both the primary legislation and the associated regulations, presented to this Honourable House for approval before the end of 2014.”

The Minister also noted that the Ministry of Tourism Development and Transport has engaged New Jersey-based Spectrum Gaming Group to “provide expert advice and services” to the Bermuda Government.

Minister Crockwell’s full statement follows below:

Mr. Speaker,

I rise today to provide this Honourable House with an update on the progress that has been made on the Gaming legislation that the Government will be bringing before the Legislature.

Mr. Speaker,

In December of last year the Government made the decision to proceed with the establishment of legalized casino gaming through the parliamentary process. This was a difficult decision for the Government but we are confident it was the right decision for Bermuda. We are also confident that the majority of Bermudians support the introduction of casino style gaming.

This is supported by recent polling results which show that 76 percent of residents support the introduction of casino gaming in Bermuda to assist in bringing jobs, increase tourism and generate revenue on the Island. This is very similar to a poll the Government conducted in 2013 which showed that 74 percent of residents support resort casino gaming.

Mr. Speaker,

Since the Government’s decision to advance the development and establishment of a domestic gaming industry, the Ministry of Tourism Development and Transport has been working collaboratively with Government legislative drafters and other civil administrators as a cross-Ministerial initiative to create the legislative and administrative framework necessary to do so.

Accordingly, a Gaming Legislative Drafting Committee, which I will refer to as (GLDC) has been formed with the oversight of the Permanent Secretaries of the Ministry of Tourism Development and Transport, the Attorney General’s Chambers and the Ministry of Legal Affairs.

In addition to the representatives from the previously mentioned ministries, the GLDC includes representatives from the Ministry of Finance and Management Consulting Services with its main objective to draft primary legislation with the intent for it to be tabled before the end of the current legislative session.Mr. Speaker,

I am pleased to report that a draft Bill is completed and I would like to compliment the legislative drafters, the Attorney General Chamber’s team and all of the individuals that have worked tirelessly on producing a very comprehensive piece of legislation in a very short period of time.

I draw Honourable members’ attention to the process in Singapore which took more than two (2) years to produce their enabling Act. We are using the Singapore Legislation as a guide which has greatly assisted in the production of the draft Bill.

Mr. Speaker,

The Bill will not be tabled during this session and I make no apologies because the enabling legislation is the most important component in ensuring we have the best regime and administrative structure to effectively oversee the domestic casino gaming industry.

We will continue with our work to finalize the Bill which will be augmented by the regulations necessary to comprehensively establish and regulate the gaming industry with the intent for both primary and secondary legislation to be tabled when parliament reconvenes.

This will keep the Government on track to have the entire statutory structure, i.e. both the primary legislation and the associated regulations, presented to this Honourable House for approval before the end of 2014.

Mr. Speaker,

As it relates to hotel resorts that will have an amenity casino in Bermuda, it is the policy of the Government to establish a Casino Gaming Commission and a Responsible Gaming Council, and to implement casino gaming on a limited basis. The overriding policy objectives of the pending legislation include, inter alia, the following:

• Promote and enhance development of the hotel industry through new construction and redevelopment of existing facilities;
• Increase tourism visitation to Bermuda;
• Attract investment in the casino and hotel industries;
• Strict and comprehensive regulatory oversight over all aspects of casino gaming;
• Gaming licensees shall be held to the highest standards of licensing;
• Ensuring that the ownership, management and operation of a casino are carried out by persons who are suitable;
• Ensuring that casino gaming is conducted honestly;
• The awarding of a license is a revocable privilege and licensees have a continuing duty to maintain their integrity and financial stability;
• Ensuring public confidence and trust in the integrity of casino regulation and casino operations;
• Prevention of corrupt influences from participating in the casino industry;
• Proper attention to the matter of problem gambling;
• Prohibiting underage gambling; and
• Detection and prevention of money laundering.

Mr. Speaker,

The Ministry of Tourism Development and Transport has engaged Spectrum Gaming Group (Spectrum) to provide expert advice and services to the Bermuda Government. Spectrum is a business based in New Jersey, USA with a professional team that specializes in developing and improving gaming regulatory agencies around the world.

Some of the jurisdictions where Spectrum have provided these services are New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Illinois, Kentucky, Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, the Bahamas and Singapore. The latter is coincidentally the jurisdiction which the Government has decided to use as the primary exemplary model for Bermuda’s gaming industry.

Thus far Spectrum have contributed towards the drafting of the primary legislation and it is the intent to be further assisted by Spectrum with the supporting regulations to provide for the legal framework required to establish a casino gaming industry within Bermuda and to assist with the implementation of a corresponding regulatory regime and administrative structure to effectively oversee the domestic casino gaming industry.

Mr. Speaker,

The implementation of Casino Gaming legislation in Bermuda is a major statement and a jurisdictional decision that will be closely observed by our competitors and potential investors in the tourism industry.

In most jurisdictions where gaming is legal it is extensively regulated. There is probably no other business that has so many aspects of its operations so heavily regulated.It is vital to Bermuda’s reputation that we get our gaming statutory structure right and this Government is committed to doing so.

Mr. Speaker,

I conclude by stating that one of the benefits of getting into this industry at this stage is that we can learn from the mistakes of other jurisdictions. Therefore we welcome comments and input by all members on this very important legislation and I consider it an excellent opportunity to work together to implement a casino gaming model that positively sets us apart from the rest of this world.

Thank you Mr. Speaker.