In Bermuda, House of Assembly legislators reportedly passed controversial measures late last week that would allow the Minister for Economic Development and Tourism to sack members of the recently-established Casino Gaming Commission and personally issue policy directives.
According to a report from The Royal Gazette newspaper, the Casino Gaming Amendment Act 2017 was ratified by the lower house on Friday by a vote of 17 to twelve with six members absent. It was purportedly crafted by the ruling Progressive Labour Party of Bermudian Premier David Burt following consultations with the new Chair of the Casino Gaming Commission, Cheryl-Ann Mapp, and would directly alter last year’s casino-enabling Casino Gaming Amendment Act 2016.
The newspaper reported that the Casino Gaming Amendment Act 2017 would permit the Minister for Economic Development and Tourism for the British Overseas Territory to ‘revoke the appointment of a member’ of the Casino Gaming Commission should that official be ‘unable or unwilling to perform’ their duties. It would purportedly also allow for a member to be sacked for ‘misconduct or breach of best regulatory practice’ or for having brought the regulator or the government into ‘disrepute’.
The Royal Gazette reported that a second line of the Casino Gaming Amendment Act 2017 is set to give the Minister for Economic Development and Tourism the authority to issue ‘such general directions as appear to the Minister to be necessary in the public interest’ with the Casino Gaming Commission subsequently obligated to ‘act in accordance with such directions’.
In responding to criticism, the current Minister for Economic Development and Tourism, Jamahl Simmons, reportedly told the newspaper that the changes were ‘not unusual, not unique and not unheard of’ and would not allow him or any successor to ‘interfere with corruption investigations’ or ‘decide who gets casino licenses’.
Echoing these sentiments, Burt reportedly told The Royal Gazette that the new legislation was ‘very simple’ and would allow his government ‘to prove we are up for the job’.
However, Leah Scott reportedly joined with other colleagues from the One Bermuda Alliance opposition political party to contest the changes before proclaiming that it was vital to protect the independence of the Casino Gaming Commission.
“I don’t think that internationally it gives a good perception that the Minister [for Economic Development and Tourism] can interfere in this way,” Scott reportedly told The Royal Gazette.