Last updated: 02:45 PM ET, Mon November 28 2016

Bermuda Approves Amended Casino Legislation

Destination & Tourism Brian Major November 28, 2016

Bermuda Approves Amended Casino Legislation

PHOTO: Bermuda is poised to host the America’s Cup sailing race in 2017. (Photo courtesy of the Bermuda Tourism Authority).

Bermuda tourism officials are poised to hit the jackpot in their two-year quest to establish casino gaming in the territory. Bermuda’s parliament earlier this month approved revisions to the 2016 Casino Gaming Amendment Act, an updated version of a bill launched in 2014 by former tourism minister Shawn Crockwell to establish up to three “integrated resort casinos” in Bermuda.

The controversial act’s passage followed hours of debate and “harsh criticism” from some legislators in the conservative nation, where casino gaming has long been banned. The measure is designed to encourage the development of new resorts with integrated casinos in Bermuda as part of a strategy to reverse the territory’s declining visitor arrivals in recent years.

Bermuda’s current tourism minister, Michael Fahy, said the legislation “brings us ever closer to creating a regulatory framework” for casino gaming in the territory. Fahy said officials at Bermuda’s Casino Gaming Commission are working to ensure U.S. banks will assist in processing the territory’s casino industry proceeds.

The legislators also approved “gaming designation site orders” for the Fairmont Hamilton Princess hotel and the St. Regis Hotel, currently under development in Bermuda’s St. George’s district. The orders do not themselves permit casino gaming, said Grant Gibbons, Bermuda’s economic development minister, but “merely confirmed an applicant as eligible for a full license, enough to start construction.”

The legislation also allows for electronic gaming for resort guests in specific areas via mobile devices, and includes provisions to address “problem gaming.”

Ironically Bermuda’s tourism has rebounded in 2016 following a decade-long decline during which Bermuda has fell far behind the arrivals pace set by other warm-weather destinations.  Air arrivals totaled 68,462 in the first half of 2016 according to Bermuda Tourism Authority (BTA) statistics, a 10 percent year-over-year increase compared with the first half of 2015.

The first-half 2016 arrivals also represent the largest number of airline visitors to arrive in Bermuda since 2008, said BTA officials in a statement. “The strong start to the year extends to visitor spending, hotel occupancy and cruise arrivals as well,” the statement adds.

Bermuda is also scheduled to host the America’s Cup international yacht race in June 2017. BTA is partnering with the America’s Cup Event Authority to offer hotel packages that include airport transfers and spectator access.

Bermuda’s cruise ship business also received a boost this year via an agreement with Norwegian Cruise Line for regular port calls in St. George’s in 2017 and 2018. The planned St. Regis hotel at the site of a former Club Med property St. George’s will be the district’s first new hotel in decades.