Despite No Casinos, Bermuda Will Give Casino Regulator a $10M Guarantee this Year

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Posted on: March 2, 2023, 07:12h. 

Last updated on: March 2, 2023, 09:20h.

The gaming spotlight has been shining brightly on Bermuda recently because of repeated delays in the launch of its casino market. And, even though there doesn’t appear to be a gaming property coming soon, the government is giving the Bermuda Gaming Commission (BGC) a guarantee of almost $10 million so it can operate.

An aerial view of the Hamilton Princess and Beach Club in Bermuda
An aerial view of the Hamilton Princess and Beach Club in Bermuda. The British Overseas Territory is giving its casino regulator financial support even though there are no casinos to regulate. (Image: Leonardo)

Bermuda’s Royal Gazette reported on the government’s budget layout for the 2023-24 fiscal year. In it, the media outlet highlighted that the BGC will receive $9.8 million in the form of a guarantee.

The amount is 20 times higher than what the regulator received in 2018, and more than three times what the government provided for in the previous fiscal year. It comes almost immediately after plans to introduce casinos to the British Overseas Territory (BOT) began to fall apart.

BGC Gets More Than Tourism

In January, Century Casinos announced that it was giving up its plans for a casino at the Hamilton Princess & Beach Club resort. It would have been one of two casinos planned for Bermuda, but continued delays and no clear future caused Century officials to change their mind.

Soon after that announcement, the second property, the St. Regis Bermuda Resort, began doubting its future, as well. The St. Regis already received approval for a casino, but hasn’t been able to launch it amid regulatory uncertainty.

The Royal Gazette gave a breakdown of where the government, led by Premier and Minister of Finance David Burt, is putting its money this year and the results seem inconsistent. For example, at the same time the BGC is receiving a guarantee of almost $10 million, the Bermuda Tourism Authority will only receive $5 million.

Furthermore, Hotel Bermuda Holdings Ltd (HBH) will receive a $25M guarantee. HBH, according to government records, is part of the development group behind what the government described in 2017 as the “St. Regis Luxury Hotel, Casino, Spa and Golf Resort in St. George’s.”

In 2015, when the first gaming commission started operating, there were five employees. Eight years later, and still with no casinos, there are 11. Whereas the idea was to have gaming revenue fund the BGC, the absence of casinos has made that impossible.

The regulator has had nine years to put together the requisite gaming framework. However, for reasons that have never been made clear, there have been repeated delays.

The Royal Gazette tried to find out from the government why there was a need for an increase, but couldn’t get to the bottom of it. The Ministry of Finance and the BGC both sidestepped the inquiry, essentially saying they were too busy to respond.

BGC Living the Good Life

The first director of the BGC, Richard Schuetz, began setting up the market in 2015 with a government-approved salary of $215K per year. He later resigned after reaching the conclusion that Bermuda wasn’t taking the idea of casino gambling seriously enough.

Schuetz, per the regulator’s charter at the time, recruited four staff members. This led to employee expenses of $1.1 million in the first 19 months of operation. Since then, almost everything has changed.

There are now 11 filled positions out of 14 available. These are in addition to the board members, which include a chairman (earning $22K a year), a deputy chairman ($18K), and three commissioners ($15K each).

The only thing that hasn’t changed is that there is still no casino.

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