Bermuda is a British Overseas Territory in the Caribbean, known for its beautiful beaches, offshore financial services, and tax haven status. The island has a population of about 64,000 and attracts around 500,000 tourists every year, mostly from the US, Canada, and the UK.
However, Bermuda has never had any casinos or legal gambling facilities until recently. The island has been reluctant to embrace the casino industry, due to concerns over social issues, money laundering, and religious opposition. It took more than nine years for Bermuda to finally approve its first casino license in October 2022.
The First Casino in Bermuda: St. Regis Bermuda Resort
The first and only casino license in Bermuda was awarded to St. Regis Bermuda Resort, a luxury hotel on the east side of the main island. The hotel has been in operation since May 2021, but it still has to go through a rigorous approval process before it can open its casino. The Bermuda Gaming Commission (BGC) requires the casino to have a compliance committee, internal controls, approved equipment, and mandatory training for employees.
The casino is expected to open sometime in 2023, although the exact date is not yet confirmed. The casino will have 12 gaming tables and 100 slot machines, and will cater to both hotel guests and local residents. The casino will also have to pay a 10% tax on gross gaming revenue to the government.
The St. Regis Bermuda Resort is not the only hotel that wants a casino license in Bermuda. The Hamilton Princess hotel, the oldest in Bermuda, has also announced its intention to apply for a license as soon as possible. However, the BGC has not indicated when it will issue more licenses or how many it will allow.
The Potential Benefits and Challenges of Casinos in Bermuda
The introduction of casinos in Bermuda is seen as a new opportunity for tourism and economy in the island. The proponents of casinos argue that they will create jobs, generate revenue, attract more visitors, diversify the economy, and compete with other Caribbean destinations that offer gambling.
However, there are also potential challenges and risks associated with casinos in Bermuda. The opponents of casinos warn that they will increase crime, addiction, corruption, money laundering, and social problems. They also question whether casinos will fit with Bermuda’s image and culture as a family-friendly and conservative destination.
The BGC has stated that it will regulate the casino industry with strict standards and oversight to ensure that it operates responsibly and ethically. The BGC has also pledged to use some of the casino tax revenue to fund problem gambling prevention and treatment programs.
Casinos in Bermuda are a controversial and complex issue that has divided the public opinion for years. Whether they will be a success or a failure remains to be seen.
- The applicant must be a hotel or resort that has been designated as an integrated resort development by the Minister of Tourism Development and Transport.
- The applicant must pass a suitability review by the Bermuda Gaming Commission (BGC), which includes background checks, financial audits, and anti-money laundering assessments.
- The applicant must pay a non-refundable application fee of $500,000 and a provisional license fee of $1.4 million.
- The applicant must comply with the conditions imposed or attached to the provisional license, such as hiring Bermudians, investing in casino facilities, and mitigating security and traffic issues.
- The applicant must obtain the final approval from the BGC, which involves meeting the operational requirements, such as establishing a compliance committee, finalizing internal controls, recruiting and training employees, and purchasing and installing gaming equipment and systems.
As of now, only one casino license has been issued in Bermuda, to St. Regis Bermuda Resort. The Hamilton Princess hotel has also applied for a license, but it is not yet granted. The BGC has not indicated when it will issue more licenses or how many it will allow.
Casino tax revenue is expected to benefit Bermuda in several ways. According to the Casino Gaming Amendment Act 2016, the casino operators will have to pay a 10% tax on gross gaming revenue to the government. Some of the possible benefits are:
- The tax revenue can be used to fund public services and infrastructure, such as education, health, and transportation.
- The tax revenue can also be allocated to support problem gambling prevention and treatment programs, as well as other social and charitable causes.
- The tax revenue can help diversify the economy and reduce the dependence on offshore financial services, which account for about 85% of Bermuda’s GDP.
- The tax revenue can enhance the tourism industry and attract more visitors, especially from the US, Canada, and the UK, which are the main sources of tourists for Bermuda.
However, there are also some challenges and risks associated with casino tax revenue in Bermuda. For example:
- The casino industry may face competition from other Caribbean destinations that offer gambling, such as Bahamas, Puerto Rico, and Aruba.
- The casino industry may also face regulatory uncertainty and delays, as Bermuda has been reluctant to embrace gambling and has only issued one casino license so far.
- The casino industry may have negative impacts on social issues, such as crime, addiction, corruption, and money laundering. These may outweigh the benefits of tax revenue and harm Bermuda’s reputation as a family-friendly and conservative destination.
Therefore, casino tax revenue is not a guaranteed or easy solution for Bermuda’s economic and social development. It requires careful planning, regulation, and oversight to ensure that it operates responsibly and ethically.