31 Mar 2023 By travelpulse
Bermuda's casino project remains afloat, but its original resort-based model appears dead in the water.
Amended legislation approved at the end of last week by territory officials changes key elements of the long-running gaming proposal, including the requirement that casinos be attached to resort properties.
David Burt, Bermuda's premier, said the integrated resort model long envisioned for Bermuda's gaming industry represented a "flaw" in the previous bill. The resort-based model has been "relaxed" under the new legislation, Burt said in Monday press reports.
The bill mentions creating "smaller, amenity-style casinos," under models conceived by operators. It does not mention how casinos would be developed or licenses would work under the new law.
Burt, who also served as Bermuda's tourism minister until last week, said his latter position emerged as a "potential conflict of interest" impacting the long-delayed project. Burt re-named Zane DeSilva, another Bermuda lawmaker and a former tourism minister, to his previous post.
Earlier this year a local bank joined several Bermuda lawmakers in opposition to the original legislation, asserting Burt's multiple roles as premier and tourism and finance minister placed proposed casinos under too much government control.
Burt said the new bill addresses those concerns. He also said the bill enables the Bermuda Casino Gaming Commission (BCGC) to rewrite operator guidelines and create anti-money laundering regulations and initiatives to promote responsible gaming.
Several lawmakers were unmoved by the announced changes. Cole Simons, leader of the opposition party, asked in a Bermuda Royal Gazette report, "The question is, when will we have gaming in Bermuda?"
Simons said BCGC has received $6 million in loans and grants since its inception with no casino to show for its efforts.
Local banks had recommended easing government centralization of casino control back in 2020, as a channel to establish casino payments.
Yet almost three years later (and nearly nine years after Bermuda first permitted casino gaming), no casino has opened
Burt had earlier said a resort casino would be operating by the end of 2021. Although no project is imminent, BCGC has 11 employees and a $9.8 million budget for 2023.
In January, gaming firm Century Casinos canceled plans to operate a casino at the Hamilton Princess & Beach Club, citing Bermuda's long delays in launching the casino plan.
It remains unclear how the St. Regis Bermuda Resort, which last year received the first casino license, impacts the company's project.
Burt said in January he was "impressed" by the hotelier's commitment to its casino plans.
St. Regis officials did not respond to a TravelPulse request for comment on the latest legislation.
Burt said Monday the government "will do everything in our power to deliver on our 2020 election manifesto pledge to launch a casino gaming industry here in Bermuda."