Bermuda Getting First Casino After Nine-Year Wait

Posted on: October 10, 2022, 01:22h. 

Last updated on: October 10, 2022, 02:01h.

It took more than nine years, but the Caribbean island of Bermuda is getting a casino. The Bermuda Gaming Commission (BGC) has awarded the first license, although the launch date for the casino is still in the air.

An aerial view of the main island in Bermuda. The British territory is finally ready to welcome its first casino. (Image: Expedia)

St. Regis Bermuda Resort, on the east side of the main island, will now begin preparing for a gaming hall. The hotel has been in operation for the past year and a half, but there are still a number of hurdles it has to cross.

Legislators and authorities in Bermuda, a British Overseas Territory (BOT), have been reluctant to embrace gambling, but couldn’t hold out any longer. Still, because of a certain degree of apprehension, the St. Regis is going to have to subject itself to a very thorough approval process.

Time to Roll the Dice

Bermuda has finally decided to roll the dice on casinos, cautiously waiting to see how the potential market may play out. Banks there have also resisted the measure, mostly unwilling to work with the gambling industry over money laundering concerns. This is in spite of Bermuda’s history as a tax haven.

That’s now, at least temporarily, in the past. The island archipelago is ready to give it a go.

This will involve a “three-stage process,” according to the BGC. Among other criteria, the casino will have to have a compliance committee and internal controls to guarantee compliance with the regulatory framework.

In addition, the equipment the casino purchases must be approved by the BGC. There will also be mandatory training that the regulator needs to sign off on for employees.

When the casino opens now depends, in part, on how quickly St. Regis can put everything in order. The BGC has been working on a possible launch for the better part of this year, and previously thought that something might be in place by June. As is typical with new launches, the process is taking longer than anticipated.

St. Regis may be the first to make casino plans, but it won’t be the last. The Hamilton Princess hotel, the oldest in Bermuda, has announced that it wants a license as well.

Bermuda Looks for More Autonomy

Like most BOTs, Bermuda has to be as self-sufficient as possible. Its biggest claim to fame has been serving as an international financial hub, which accounts for around 85% of its GDP.

It has always been a popular destination for US tourists, which has helped it achieve that goal on a regular basis. Before the pandemic, around 500K people visited Bermuda each year. Approximately 80% of those came from the US, although Canadians and Britons were regulars as well.

COVID-19 hurt tourism, though. It wasn’t until this past summer, following two solid years of declines, that the industry began to recover. Inbound travel is still only around 56% of what it was in 2019, according to Minister of Tourism Vance Campbell.

Even though tourism numbers are still down, visitors are spending more. Campbell said that the average length of stay is 11% longer than it was in 2019, and the average spend is around $500 more. With the arrival of casinos, this could improve even more.