Year in Review

January: Gaming looks as far away as ever

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It had been heralded by the Government as one of the four cornerstone industries that would help create jobs and kick-start the economy. 

But Lady Luck was certainly not smiling down on the island’s fledgeling gaming industry at the start of the year. 

The omens were not good after The Royal Gazette reported in the previous month that Jean Major, the head of the Bermuda Gaming Commission, which was set up to oversee the industry, had resigned under mysterious circumstances. 

The industry was dealt a major blow in mid-January after a US gaming company developing a casino at the Hamilton Princess & Beach Club pulled out of the project blaming ongoing time delays. 

Peter Hoetzinger, president and chief executive of Century Casinos, which was working in partnership with the hotel for the previous eight years, said that under the existing legislative framework, the company could not foresee the project being completed in a reasonable time, if at all. 

Mr Hoetzinger said: “For the last five years we have tried to get this project up and running, but with the current legislative framework we do not assume this project can be realised in a reasonable time frame or at all. 

“We have therefore decided not to continue our attempts to implement casino operations in Hamilton any further and to leave the casino project.” 

The decision by Century Casinos to finally wash its hands of the plan effectively torpedoed any hopes that 2023 would see the opening of the first casino at the iconic hotel. 

A Hamilton Princess & Beach Club spokesman said: “We are disappointed that our designated casino partner no longer wishes to pursue the project. 

“While we continue to believe that gaming represents an attractive amenity for Bermuda’s visitors, we have paused our search for a new operator while we await a clearer road map from the Bermuda Casino Gaming Commission on a viable path forward to seeing a casino open its doors.” 

Mr Hoetzinger’s remarks prompted an angry response from shadow tourism minister Craig Cannonier, who said that David Burt owed the country an explanation. 

Mr Cannonier said: “The Premier needs to come clean on what went wrong here. The lack of transparency speaks volumes to the incompetence of the current government.” 

Days after the shock announcement, a leading business source told The Royal Gazette that the gaming sector was in jeopardy because of government incompetence. 

The source said the Government’s relationship with the renamed Bermuda Gaming Commission was putting off US investors and banks from becoming involved in setting up casinos on the island. 

They said: “The US banks want gaming to be independent, and the BGC looks anything but. A major disincentive is that Bermuda gaming regulation just does not look independent.” 

The future of a casino opening at a second hotel — the St Regis in St George’s — came under question towards the end of the month. 

Senior representatives of the resort’s owner, along with staff from their chosen casino operator, flew in for emergency talks with the Government. 

A government spokesman later described the talks, in which Mr Burt and tourism minister Vance Campbell took part, as “frank and extremely useful”. 

Mr Burt poured scorn on “idle and irresponsible media speculation around gaming”. 

He said: “It is ridiculous to suggest that the Government has not invested time and effort into achieving gaming for Bermuda. 

“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. 

“Those efforts will continue as we collaborate with all parties to deliver on this economic imperative for Bermuda.” 

But in the past 11 months, there appears to have been no movement in the sector — apart from an announcement by Jason Hayward, the Minister of Economy and Labour, that gaming was no longer a government priority. 

As the year comes to a close, Bermuda appears no closer to having a 

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