Call for commission ‘heads to roll’

  • 'Heads must roll': Mark Pettingill has hit out at the Casino Gaming Commission

Independent MP Mark Pettingill called for “heads to roll” in the Casino Gaming Commission over the lack of progress in establishing gaming in Bermuda.

Speaking for the first time since his resignation from the One Bermuda Alliance Mr Pettingill told MPs that he would give the Gaming Commission a “zero” for their “net worth in advancing the gaming product in Bermuda”.

Meanwhile, fellow Independent MP Shawn Crockwell accused the Government of misleading the House of Assembly over the response to proposed casino fees.

Both men spoke strongly against the Government’s planned fee structure for casinos, which was passed by MPs last month, during the tourism budget debate on Friday.

“Where is the resignation for putting these fees out there?” Mr Pettingill asked.

“I believe the Government and the Minister were misled by the independent commission and someone needs to resign over that.”

Mr Crockwell said that the OBA had failed to consult with potential operators who were already at the table, and that the high fees would halt casino and hotel projects.

“We were told by the Minister of the time who had conduct of the legislation that there was no pushback on the level of fees, but that’s not true,” Mr Crockwell said.

“I know that an Australian operator came to Bermuda with the intention of doing business in Bermuda, met with the Gaming Commission and expressed concern about the level of fees.

“I have received phone calls from a litany of individuals who are sitting at the table right now, individuals with designated site orders and they were not consulted on the level of fees.

“They had disagreement with the level of fees and some people are saying they are not building.”

Mr Crockwell had raised the issue of consultation earlier this year as the House debated casino fees, which would cost potential developers $3 million to receive a licence to operate a casino. While the former tourism minister said the high cost would frighten off potential developers, Grant Gibbons, the Minister of Economic Development, said that there had been consultation with casino operators and there was “no pushback”.

However, in the subsequent Senate debate on the legislation Senator Michael Fahy, the Minister of Tourism, clarified that the Government had consulted with several operators, discussions were about operating on the island and not fees.

He added that the fees had been publicly available for three months before the debate in the House, and there had been no concerns about the fees raised in that period.

Addressing the House of Assembly on the subject, Mr Crockwell described the Government’s handling of the legislation as a “dereliction of duty”.

“If the operators are not happy with the fees, they will go some where else,” he said. “It is a dereliction of duty to not consult with the parties who are at the table, who were spending money in this jurisdiction.

“My prediction is, unfortunately, we are going to see a delay in the promised ground breakings in many areas because of this issue.

“I’m hoping I’m proved wrong, but I’m inviting the Premier to hold someone accountable for the misinformation that was brought to the House.”