MPs Pass Casino Gaming Amendment Bill
The Casino Gaming Amendment Bill 2017 passed in the House of Assembly today [Dec 8] by a vote of 17 – 12, with Minister of Tourism & Economic Development Jamahl Simmons proposing amendments to the Bill before it was passed.
The amendments to the Bill were to make clear that any direction be provided only in written form to insure that there is a clear and unambiguous record, and to provide specific conditions upon the Ministerial ability to revoke an appointment based on the inability or unwillingness of a member to perform their duties, or in such other circumstances as may amount to misconduct, breach of best regulatory practice or are likely to bring the Commission or the government into disrepute.
In delivering the brief before the debate, Minister Simmons said, “Mr. Speaker, the purpose of the Bill before the House today is to make amendments to the Casino Gaming Act 2014.
“As I informed this Honourable House in a previous ministerial statement, the Government has been subjected to a calculated, malicious and divisive media campaign surrounding the issue of gaming. A calculated, malicious and divisive campaign designed to resurrect the deplorable stereotype held by a few of a Progressive Labour Party that is inherently corrupt, inherently dictatorial and inherently incompetent.
“Mr. Speaker, we reject those stereotypes and we reject the practitioners of dog whistle style media campaigns that may excite the fears of an ever shrinking, increasingly irrelevant few, but that are rejected by the many.
“Mr. Speaker, the government has been given a mandate. A mandate of which has never been seen since the advent of one man, one vote of equal value under the former Progressive Labour Party. It is right and proper that every entity that we have under our remit as the government has with us a relationship based on mutual respect and trust to execute that mandate.
“Mr. Speaker, AML/ATF assessment that Bermuda faces next year is critical to the protection of our economy and maintaining a foundation for growth. Every arm of the government and every entity under our remit must understand this and based on relationships of mutual trust and respect, must be prepared to execute wherever they can and whenever they can to assist with this assessment.
“Attempts to receive cooperation from the previous incarnation of the Bermuda Casino Gaming Commission on this critical assessment were not forthcoming, with a non-participation in the National Anti-Money Laundering Committee’s National Risk Analysis, failure to provide the requested presentation for the related workshops and failure to provide the analysis and conclusions of the working group that the Commission was chairing.
“This lack of cooperation jeopardized our ability to meet our obligations and was not acceptable to this government and I am sure would not be acceptable to the people of Bermuda.
“To that end, we propose an amendment to the Act that will enable the Minister to provide direction to the Commission after consultation with the Commission.
“With your indulgence Mr. Speaker, I would like to propose an amendment to the Bill in committee that will make it clear that such direction be provided only in written form to insure that there is a clear and unambiguous record of any directions provided by the Minister in consultation with the Commission.
“This approach is not unusual, not unique and not unheard of in this jurisdiction and in others. The Bermuda Monetary Authority is the prime example that many are aware of and whose independence remains unquestioned.
“In fact Mr. Speaker, if we were to compare the original Bermuda Casino Gaming Bill passed under the previous government with the Singapore Casino Control Act one could easily come to the conclusion that the legislation passed by the previous government was little more than a cut and paste of that document.
“With one major exception. Specifically clause 11 and Schedule 1 of the Singapore Casino Control Act which makes provisions for Ministerial direction and the revocations of appointments of Commissioners. This was left out of the Bermuda Casino Gaming Act.
“The Government has taken note of the disquiet and angst surrounding the broadness of the powers laid out in the initial bill tabled several weeks ago. Upon reflection and with careful consideration the Government, with your indulgence Mr. Speaker, would like to move amendments to this bill in committee that will provide specific conditions upon the Ministerial ability to revoke an appointment based on the inability or unwillingness of a member to perform their duties, or in such other circumstances as may amount to misconduct, breach of best regulatory practice or are likely to bring the Commission or the government into disrepute.
“These proposed amendments, in our view, preserves the intent of an independent Commission and prevents the arbitrary, unjustified removal of members of the Commission by this Minister, a future Minister or a future government. It should be noted that the Chairperson of the Gaming Commission has been consulted on the proposed amendments to the Bill and is supportive of the same.
“It is the intent of this government to move forward with Gaming focused on creating economic growth, jobs and opportunities for Bermudians. As Bermudians continue to lose jobs in hotels while non-Bermudian jobs continue to grow, it is clear that economic growth, job creation and the expansion of entrepreneurial opportunities for Bermudians was what we have been elected to do and what we will do. In clean, corruption free gaming environment and in every facet of our economy.
“What is clear is that for progress to occur in Bermuda, we must develop a renewed commitment to relationships based on trust and mutual respect. Where there is no trust and where there is no respect there will be no progress.
“As former Premier Scott once articulated, ‘Bermuda works best when we work together.”
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