Bermuda Promises Reforms to Greenlight Casinos, but Optimism Is Fading Fast

In light of the recent publicity surrounding the lack of progress in launching casinos, Bermuda has announced a shakeup of legislative reforms. However, some industry insiders believe that the British Overseas Territory (BOT) will never see a casino due to the government’s mismanagement of the project.

Bermuda Premier David Burt
Bermuda Premier David Burt makes a public address. He is making new changes to gaming laws that he expects will move the stagnant market forward. (Image: TNN – Bermuda)

Century Casinos announced last month that it was giving up on its plans to build a casino at the Hamilton Princess & Beach Club. The decision followed over nine years of waiting for Bermuda to finalize its plans for land-based casinos.

Shortly after, St. Regis Bermuda Resort, which should have already been able to launch its casino after receiving a license last year, began wondering what the future holds. Bermuda’s The Royal Gazette (TRG) reports that Premier David Burt is trying to answer that question.

New Casino Reforms Coming

In speaking to legislators last Friday, Burt, who also serves as Bermuda’s Finance Minister, is introducing new reforms he says will get the casino industry moving. He alluded to moving away from the integrated resort model, telling 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.”

Instead, Burt believes that casino operators need to be able to determine the model that will best serve their purposes. As a result, the government needs to update the Bermuda Gaming Commission’s (BGC) charter in order to allow it to respond to those determinations.

In addition, to keep the BGC in check, Burt wants to make the Ministry of Finance the ministry of gaming. He explained in his speech, “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.”

Burt emphasized that the reasons behind the continued delays are the result of the inactions of the previous administration. However, he stated that the changes he is preparing will overcome those obstacles and allow for the gaming industry to finally move forward.

Lawmakers signed off on the Bermuda Gaming Act almost nine years ago. The legislation amended how gambling would work in the island territory, but there has been little progress in advancing casino activity since then. Burt became Premier of Bermuda almost six years ago when he assumed office in July 2017.

Pessimism Over Casinos’ Future Mounts

As Burt has had six years to figure out how to advance casinos, the lack of progress has some people blaming his administration, not his predecessor’s, for the failure. TRG cites several “well-placed business and hotel industry insiders” who feel that “government control over the BGC” is the primary reason why Bermuda hasn’t been able to establish casino gambling.

Cole Simmons, the head of the political party One Bermuda Alliance, doesn’t believe the Ministry of Finance should oversee gambling. He sees this as one of the main obstacles, adding that the banking industry is hesitant to support gambling because of that involvement.

In addition, the “spectacularly bad” management of gambling by the government has one unidentified insider painting a bleak picture. The individual told TRG that the government’s intervention has led to US banks refusing to work with casinos in the territory.

Without those banks, Bermuda can’t get its casino gambling started. As a result, the insider asserts, “It is clear now that we will never see a casino in Bermuda.”

Bermuda, technically, is not part of the Caribbean; however, it is viewed as part of the Caribbean community in the US. This is, in part, due to the BOT’s own marketing, which for decades equated it to Caribbean travel. In addition, Bermuda is an associate member of the Caribbean Community, an intergovernmental body representing Caribbean states throughout the region.

There are over 650 casinos across the Caribbean, according to data from Expedia.com. They’ve been able to figure out how to become part of the gaming industry, but perhaps Bermuda still isn’t ready.