Michael Dunkley called on the Government to provide an update on Bermuda’s fledgeling casino gaming industry.
The One Bermuda Alliance’s shadow national security minister and former premier said he had seen “very little progress” on gaming since the Progressive Labour Party came into power.
Jamahl Simmons, the Minister of Tourism and Economic Development, countered that the Attorney-General’s chambers had been working diligently to get the necessary regulations right.
Mr Dunkley said: “I am more concerned now than ever before simply because time has moved on and we have seen very little progress.”
He emphasised that appropriate legislation and regulations were key as the island worked towards introducing gaming.
Mr Dunkley added that “unfair criticism, misinformation or unwarranted personal attacks” by the PLP while in Opposition “has impeded and slowed the progress of the opening of the first casino in Bermuda”.
“Now the shoe is on the other foot and we have allowed the Government to move forward.
“But after nine months seemingly without progress, because there have been very few public pronouncements, I must rise again and actually question what has taken place.”
Mr Dunkley said Mr Simmons had announced more than three months ago that regulations would be introduced “without further delay”.
He questioned where these regulations were, why there was a delay and if they would be tabled during this legislative session.
Mr Simmons responded that “the Honourable Member seems to forget the delay occurred under their administration, new leadership had to be appointed to free the delay”.
He added: “We have been working diligently at the Attorney-General’s chambers to get these regulations right.”
Mr Dunkley also asked if a new executive officer had been appointed to the Bermuda Casino Gaming Commission and if not, what progress had been made to fill the post.
“No doubt the executive office is critical to the effectiveness of the Bermuda Casino Gaming Commission and it would be appropriate that we knew that somebody was on the ground doing the necessary work.”
Mr Dunkley also noted reports of the Government taking action against the commission’s former CEO Richard Schuetz and asked how much money had been spent on this.
He added that “rumours abound that it is a significant amount of money”.
But Mr Simmons said he could not speak to matters “that are before the courts or may potentially be before the courts”.
Mr Dunkley also questioned whether options for gaming would be included in amendments to the Banks and Deposit Companies Act 1999, which were announced by the Premier last month.
He said there was no mention of gaming in the statement but he added that people involved with MM&I Holdings, the company named in The Royal Gazette’s Special Report on casino gaming last October as having lined itself up to land a hugely lucrative government casinos contract, were in the gallery when the statement was read.
Mr Dunkley, who described this as an “interesting development”, asked if the Government had “any arrangement, commitment or MOU with this group at the time”.
But Mr Simmons responded: “The Honourable Member, the former premier, continues to raise the spectre of MM&I, the company that his government had a memorandum of understanding with, the company that his government was in bed with.
“All I will say is repeat what we’ve said before, there is no relationship with MM&I in gaming, none.”