The 18 July 2014 announcement by the Honourable, Shawn G. Crockwell, JP, MP, Minister of Tourism Development and Transport to the Bermuda Legislature of the decision to proceed with the establishment of legalized casino gaming in that country comes after much deliberation by the Parliament in response to majority support by Bermudians.
Recent polling results reporting a 76 per cent majority of the Island’s residents support the introduction of casino gaming reflects the general consensus that such an introduction to the economy will create new jobs, and increase tourism revenues.
Gaming in Bermuda is not considered, however, to include legalized casino gambling. While the island permits cruise ship casino gambling in port, the new bill does not include such a provision on land. The designation of gaming or ‘casinos’ as hotel amenities rather than independent facilities limits the expansion of gaming, and the industry’s near future entrance as a sector in the Bermuda economy. Rules to casino entry by locals restrict gaming to a minimum $100 deposit. The main goal of the legislation is to serve as an incentive to business and tourist development.
The Singaporean Model
The announcement of the proposed bill to legalize gaming in Bermuda includes reference to the Minister’s recent travel to Singapore to learn about gaming industry operations. The Singaporean model of hotel resort casino favored by Bermuda, will involve upscale hotel design, luxury accommodations, and other amenities such as convention space, golf, restaurants, shopping, as well casino gaming.
The policy of the Bermuda Government is to establish the conditions for the promotion and enhancement of gaming industry development as part of the hotel sector through legislation that allows for the construction and redevelopment of existing facilities housing gaming operations. Actionable items involved in the legislation follow Singapore’s model in that the policy was designed in the interest of increasing tourism to the country; and attract investment in the economy through the casino and hotel industries.
Challenges to the New Gaming Law
MP Crockwell has deemphasized concerns solicited by critics that Bermuda will come to resemble Las Vegas, stating instead that the legislation is slated for a maximum of three casinos on the island initially, and that those facilities must be integrated as part of an existing hotel or new hotel infrastructure. Once the legislation is in place, the near future will present an opportunity for development of a casino gaming infrastructure, and expansion of this project in the creation of new resort hotel casinos in the future.
The decision by the Bermuda government underscores the benefits of gaming to small economies, and the potential for broad market business development surrounding those projects in the finance, electronic transaction, online casino, and tourism segments. Target marketing of the new casinos in the country’s three largest tourist markets in the United States, Boston, Miami, and New York, will associate gaming with an upscale hotel brand market and recognized financial partner investment in those projects.
Concerns about risks to Bermuda’s social environment have also been under discussion, with a focus on mitigation and policing, as well as opportunities for development of the casino security sector. The Bermuda government has also committed to using funds generated from the new casinos for social programs to counsel and treat addicted gamblers. The new legislation offers strict and comprehensive regulatory rules to the oversight of all aspects of Bermuda’s casino gaming operators. Those operators must hold active gaming licenses to ensure that the ownership, management and operation of those casino entities are carried out according to industry best practices as assigned by law.
Once the casinos are in operation, regulatory control over limited gaming will be overseen by the Bermudan Casino Gaming Commission and Responsible Gaming Council. This is part of the reason that the gaming bill has been tabled since 2012, as the government has worked out the details to Bermuda’s integration of hotel resort casinos. The fact that casino operations require more regulation than most other businesses has been the source of the delay.
So far Bermuda has instituted a cross-Ministry Gaming Legislative Drafting Committee and has contracted consultancy from the U.S. based Spectrum Gaming Group to assist in development of a prospectus for the country’s gaming infrastructure. While no formal referendum has been held, the recent national poll on gaming showed resounding support for the new legislation and the economic impact it will have on the island once up and running. The Bermuda government is committed to continuous development of up-to-date infrastructure to govern and administer the domestic casino gaming sector.
Rule implementation must be followed by an apt regime of governance, as well as everyday administrative oversight of casino regulatory adherence in operations on the island. Enactment of the bill as legislation will be a major transition for Bermuda. The decision to define the jurisdiction as a market for legal gaming, lays the foundation for future expansion of the more limited gaming rules to other segments in the casino sector should good opportunities for growth arise. At the moment, the focus is on the tourism industry, yet the profit to be made from casinos and gaming licenses presents an unlimited opportunity given the right conditions.
Under the new legislation, casinos licenses will be revocable. Corruption or other violation of regulatory rules to casino operation by hotel resorts is a top priority within the rule definition laid forth in the current law. Issues such as money laundering, underage gaming, and fraud will be lead priorities in the near future as Bermuda continues to refine its domestic gaming policies. Although the nation is late stage in the casino boom, the opportunity to benefit is great. Competitive advantage resting in the island’s reputation as a world class tourist destination supports the implementation of the casino gaming rules toward development of a gaming sector.