11 Dec 2017

It's A Bad Move & It Will Backfire Says Dunkley

 

On September 22nd, 2017 I spoke on the Motion To Adjourn about the mounting concern that gaming might not happen in Bermuda. I stated at that time if gaming is not set up properly it will not work for the betterment of Bermuda, our people and the investors. There is much to do in any jurisdiction to build an effective framework for gaming; legislation and regulation are key to making it happen and allowing the operation of casino gaming, dealing with problem gaming and catching corruption and fraud.

Bermuda has made steady progress and since the inception of the Bermuda Casino Gaming Commission, under the guidance of Alan Dunch, the Commissioners and the BCGC led by Richard Schuetz, we were positioned to deal with the biggest remaining hurdle, that of obtaining a correspondent banking partner.   

However, since the election little has been done and in my view the BCGC has not had the support of the Government. Instead we have witnessed the Government trying to exert undue influence and control on a body that should be as independent as possible from the political process as experience has shown that politics and gaming do not mix. Couple this with the fact that the PLP has said little of what their vision for gaming is in their election platform, Throne Speech or comments from the Minister or Premier. 

The future for gaming looks bleak especially with the passage of the Casino Gaming Amendment Act 2017, an amendment that is considered draconian by many, and if you don’t believe me then just listen to industry experts.  

One such expert is Fredric Gushin, managing director of Spectrum Gaming Group which has worked for the Bermuda Government, PLP and OBA, Singapore and over 45 countries around the world and 33 American states. He states that the fledgling industry needed to have an independent commission and one that can make decisions without political interference and with a high degree of integrity. Mr. Gushin worked to develop the 2014 legislation and there was a consensus that the legislation ought not to copy Singapore entirely and the commission should be as apolitical as possible. He has warned that the change could put off investors and “certainly have a chilling effect” on efforts to get the industry up and running.  

Gene Johnson, of Victor Strategies, said “it looks, quite frankly, like an attempt to exert political control over what should be an independent organization. It is obviously an attempt by a minister to bring the gaming commission under his direct control.” He warned it could open the door to corruption and added “even the perception of corruption will have a negative impact on the industry.” 

The original Casino Gaming Act was passed in December of 2014 after a long debate. During that debate the PLP as the opposition raised no concern in anyway with the two sections of the act which were amended last Friday. Section 8 deals with Objects of the Commission and was amended to provide the Minister with greater control; being able to issue general directions which the commission must comply with.. Schedule 1 deals with the Constitution and Proceedings of the Commission and was amended to allow the Minister, at any time, to revoke the appointment of a member. 

One wonders why no concern was raised in 2014 but now amendments are made?

During the 2014 debate the PLP questioned many other sections but not a single word on these two. In fact they even tabled an amendment for another section which was not agreed.

So why were these two sections ok to be passed in 2014 but not acceptable now? 

Bermuda holds a hard earned reputation as an open and transparent jurisdiction where we do things right. This amendment has the potential to undermine that reputation and undermine the independence of the BCGC as it allows the Government, any Government, to provide unfettered direction. This amendment takes away the independence of the commission, takes away the ability for critical thought, and takes away our hard earned reputation built in commerce, business and tourism.

My colleagues knew we had no ability to stop the legislation in the House but we also don’t want to say in 1, 2 or 10 years down the road “we told you so.”

I thought that in light of the fact that Mr. Dunch has resigned the legislation would be put on hold. But no the Government has decided to barrel forward in spite of advice from experts in the industry. This is a backward step.

It’s a wrong move, it’s a bad move and it will backfire.

 

 


 
Read 1454 times Last modified on Monday, 11 December 2017 13:32
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