With plans for a casino development still up in the air, the owners of St. Regis Hotels sat down for meetings with the Bermuda Gaming Commission last week which were described as “frank and extremely useful”.
Also part Friday’s meeting were Premier David Burt and the territory’s minister of tourism, Vance Campbell. The meeting was initially announced early last week after St Regis Hotels’ bid to launch casino gaming at the Hamilton Princess & Beach Club fell through.
During the meeting, Campbell commended the hotel for contributing to Bermuda’s tourism and mentioned the government’s long-standing relationship with the owners.
“The St. Regis Hotel is a valuable addition to Bermuda’s tourism product and the Government enjoys a constructive working relationship with the owners,” he stated.
“The St. Regis team had met earlier that day with the Bermuda Gaming Commission and in addition to an overview of that discussion, it was an opportunity to hear from them on the hotel’s operations and some additional thoughts on the coming season.”
Premier Burt also spoke during the meeting and called St. Regis’ efforts to open a casino ‘impressive’. He revealed that the Friday meeting consisted of several discussions regarding practical and legislative methods to address the proposed gaming venue.
“I continue to be impressed by the commitment of St. Regis to introducing a casino at the hotel and our discussion examined legislative and practical ways to achieve that shared goal,” Burt said.
“The idle and irresponsible media speculation around gaming has failed to change the owner’s positive outlook for a casino at the property.”
According to earlier reports, the reason the prior casino proposal fell through was connected to the legislative regime the Bermuda government had imposed. It was described as “too cumbersome and wide-ranging”, making it difficult for outside investment into the country’s small market.
Two weeks ago, Century Casinos revealed that it had pulled out of the deal involving a casino in Hamilton Princess & Beach Club. The gaming operator, which worked on the project for eight years, stated at the time that there was excessive red tape involved.
Century’s president and chief executive, Peter Hoetzinger, said Bermuda’s current legislative framework made it difficult for the project to be completed anytime soon, or even at all.
St. Regis also stated that it would halt attempts to partner with a new operator at least until the country’s gaming commission could provide a “viable path forward”.
On Friday, Burt claimed that Bermuda’s government had invested significant resources to bring gaming to the territory. This includes having meetings with banks, holding discussions with the executive team of the commission, and working with hoteliers.
“It is ridiculous to suggest that the Government has not invested time and effort into achieving gaming for Bermuda,” Burt said.
“We have met with banks, worked with hoteliers, responding positively to the economic realities of the pandemic, compounded by the delays in gaming licensing, and conferred with the commission’s executive team on striking the necessary balance between encouraging gaming and doing so with an appropriate regulatory regime.”
The country’s banks are reportedly having issues finding a correspondent financial institution in the United States which will aid in handling gaming proceeds. An industry insider claimed that the reluctance of the U.S. banks was linked with the head of government’s close ties to the Bermuda Gaming Commission.
The Casino Gaming Amendment Act 2017 gave the government the authority to direct and fire the commissioners at will.
“In all this, we have been determined to understand and act on issues that have delayed gaming for Bermuda,” Burt continued.
“With the renewed commitment to a casino we heard from St. Regis and their casino operator, those efforts will continue as we collaborate with all parties to deliver on this economic imperative for Bermuda.”
In October, St. Regis Bermuda in St. George’s was issued the first gaming license on the island; however, there has yet to be a date set for the casino opening. A thriving casino industry was highlighted as one of Bermuda’s four essential drivers of future economic growth.
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