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Bermuda Senators pass gaming legislation

Casinos are set to become a reality in Bermuda after senators passed three pieces of gaming and betting legislation.

The Gaming (Transfer of Functions) Act 2021, The Betting Act 2021, and The Betting Fees Regulations 2021 were all passed yesterday morning.

However, John Wight, an independent Senator, voiced concerns on a ‘moral’ level about betting by locals.

“Further enticing people to bet doesn’t seem to be the appropriate way to go forward,” Mr Wight said in reference to the Betting Act.

“What little I know about betting is that the house wins more often than it loses and therefore the customer, the Bermudian, loses more often than they win so from that perspective, I am not supportive of this bill.”

Declaring his interest as director of HSBC, Mr Wight added: “On the practical side … I am not sure where local banks are with banking and betting operations. Through the public forums we have heard concerns about gaming.”

Mr Wight also made reference to the obligation of members of the Institute of Chartered Accountants to prepare accounts for betting operations within three months following the end of each business year.

“That is going to be very problematic,” he said. “I contacted the industry in Bermuda last week and the CPA [Chartered Professional Accountants] of Bermuda weren’t even aware of this legislation coming forward.”

Owen Darrell, Government Senator and the Junior Minister of the Cabinet Office, Education and Public Works who tabled the three bills, said: “The intent of the bill is not to entice people, it is more to protect the operators, the patrons who do choose to bet and also to protect Bermuda’s economy.”

Mr Darrell added: “Operators can choose their accountants but the standard of accountants must be set.”

Ernest Peets, The Minister of Youth, Culture and Sport and the Government Senate Leader, said that measures were in place to ensure problem gamers have access to helping services. The Problem Gaming Council was put in place to provide a safety net for those considered vulnerable, he said.

Under The Gaming (Transfer of Functions) Act, the Bermuda Gaming Commission’s remit will include betting shops, cruise ship casinos, lotteries and raffles and the traditional Crown and Anchor, as well as casinos.

The Betting Act 2021 provides for a separate regulatory regime for the betting sector in line with modern compliance and anti-money laundering standards.

The Betting Fees Regulations 2021 provides a framework for the recovery of costs by the gaming commission for work such as investigations and licensing.

It is expected that the first casino will open at the new St Regis hotel in St George’s in the summer.

Marcus Jones, Opposition Senator, said it was a shame that legislation had not fully come into effect in time for the opening of the St George’s hotel at the weekend.

He said: “Government needs to move at the speed of business.”

Source: The Royal Gazette