The head of the island’s gambling watchdog has been ordered to reveal the reasons for its decision not to release records on betting shops to The Royal Gazette.
Cheryl Ann Mapp, chairwoman of the Bermuda Casino Gaming Commission, was told by Gitanjali Gutierrez. the Information Commissioner, that she has until March 19 to release her decision.
Ms Gutierrez, in a ruling issued on Tuesday, recommended that the commission should also “consider whether it is appropriate to apologise” to The Royal Gazette for its failure to respond in the time frame required by the Public Access to Information Act.
A request for all records held by the BCGC on Bermuda’s betting shops was submitted to the commission by the newspaper in November 2017.
The request asked that the disclosure include, but not be limited to, correspondence with other public authorities, legal opinions and minutes of meetings during which betting shops were discussed.
Deborah Blakeney, general counsel for the public authority, said in January 2018 that the information could not be released at that time because it “currently forms part of the deliberations that are taking place” involving the commission, the economic development and tourism ministry “and, by extension, the Government of Bermuda”.
Ms Blakeney added the records were exempt under the Pati Act while the talks continued because disclosure “would undermine, or could reasonably be expected to undermine, the deliberative process” of the BCGC, including “free and frank discussion”.
She said it was expected that the “deliberations would result in a decision in the near future” and at that point the records would be released “without delay”.
Ms Blakeney also advised The Royal Gazette it would not need to make a further Pati request for the records.
The records were not released and The Royal Gazette asked Ms Mapp to conduct an internal review in July last year.
The chairwoman did not acknowledge the request or issue the results of a review inside six weeks, as required by law, and the matter was appealed to the Information Commissioner’s Office.
Ms Gutierrez said the commission’s initial response did not comply with the Pati Act and had left The Royal Gazette in a “suspended state, waiting for a further decision from the gaming commission that would grant access to the records”.
She added Ms Mapp should have issued an internal review decision by August 14 last year, but failed to do so.
She said that during her review, the gaming commission was given the chance to explain the failure, but did not provide “relevant submissions”.
Richard Schuetz, the commission’s former executive director, raised red flags about the regulation of Bermuda’s betting shops during his time in charge.
He said in his 2017 resignation letter that repeated warnings about “glaring deficiencies in the anti-money-laundering regime of this island’s betting sector” were ignored and there was a lack of political will to address the problems.
Responsibility for betting shops moved last February from David Burt, the Premier and then Minister of Finance, to Jamahl Simmons, then the Minister of Economic Development and Tourism.
Mr Simmons told Parliament the betting sector would be regulated and supervised by the BCGC, along with all other gambling.
Ms Blakeney insisted in April the commission did not regulate betting shops.
The gaming commission became the responsibility of new finance minister Curtis Dickinson and betting shops moved to Kathy Lynn Simmons, the Attorney-General and Minister of Legal Affairs, in a Cabinet reshuffle last November.
Ms Mapp did not respond to an e-mailed request for comment yesterday.
• To view the ruling from the Information Commissioner’s Office, click on the PDF link under “Related Media”.
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