A Bermuda casino bill has passed through the island territory’s Senate without opposition, a development that brings gambling one step closer to the remote British Overseas Territory.
Known for its pink sandy beaches and crystal blue waters, Bermuda is also recognized for its relatively conservative atmosphere. While tourists will find plenty of watering holes, casinos and strip clubs have long been unwelcomed.
The 11-person Senate wants nothing to do with the latter, but is ready for traditional casino-style gambling. The high chamber passed the Casino Gaming Amendment Act unanimously on November 28.
The legislation will allow resorts to offer casino games and slots, as well as electronic gaming in designated areas via mobile devices. Problem gaming and money laundering safeguards must also be developed and implemented.
Bermuda Minister of Tourism Michael Fahy said the proposed casino bill “brings us ever closer to creating a regulatory framework” for casino gambling. Fahy, who is one of the Senators who backed the gambling expansion measure, says allowing resorts to offer casino games will make Bermuda more attractive to guests.
There were plenty of gambling opponents on the island, but when it came time to vote, the Senators went in favor of tourism.
Bermuda has seen its visitation numbers decline in recent years, and the Casino Gaming Amendment Act is one way government officials hope to reverse that trend. It’s also designed to attract new resorts and developers to the territory.
Two current properties have already applied for casino licenses. The Fairmont Hamilton Princess and St. Regis Hotel are positioned to become the first resorts with gaming if the act is eventually signed into law.
Now that the legislation has passed the Senate, it moves to Premier Michael Dunkley, the Bermudian Attorney-General’s Chambers, and Acting Governor Ginny Ferson for final review.
Gambling expansion is being witnessed throughout the United States, and in the Caribbean there’s a similar rush to welcome tables and slots.
Billionaire James Packer, who founded the Australian casino group Crown Resorts in 2007, is developing a resort in Barbuda that will come complete with gambling. Packer and A-list Hollywood superstar Robert De Niro acquired the former K Club Resort’s 251 acres of land on Coco Point last summer.
The quiet, more undeveloped sister island to Antiqua, Barbuda locals are none too happy to hear gambling is on its way. Packer has repeatedly tried to reassure residents that his resort will be done in the right way and not jeopardize Barbuda’s serenity.
Following the death of Fidel Castro, there’s also speculation that Cuba and the US might finally alleviate its long-strained relationship. If that happens, a host of developers would be expected to flee to the Caribbean island country to invest in resorts and possibly casinos.
President-elect Donald Trump has said he wanted to do business in Cuba as far back as 1996. A recent Newsweek report alleged that Trump violated the US embargo against Cuba by covering the costs of an outside developer’s scout to the country in 1998.