Casino Gaming Commission On Caesars Visit

July 14, 2016

Alan Dunch, Chairman of the Bermuda Casino Gaming Commission, responded to recent media reports, and provided information about the visit to Bermuda by representatives of Caesars Entertainment.

The statement said, “We would like to address the issue that has arisen concerning the relationship between Jan Jones-Blackhurst, the Executive Vice President of Government Relations and Corporate Responsibility for Caesars Entertainment, and Richard Schuetz, the Executive Director of the Bermuda Casino Gaming Commission.

“Mr. Richard Schuetz and Ms. Jan Jones-Blackhurst met in 1996 when he was the President & CEO of a Las Vegas casino resort and she was the Mayor of Las Vegas. The couple married in 1998. The two have been divorced for well over a decade, have no children together, have no financial dealings with each another, and continue to be friends. Ms. Jones-Blackhurst has remarried.

“I met Ms. Jones-Blackhurst in her office at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, in September of 2015 in company with Mr. Schuetz. Our discussion with Ms. Jones-Blackhurst centred around the fledgling effort of Bermuda to introduce integrated resort casinos, to explain to her some of the advantages of investing in the Island and to invite Caesars to visit the Island to explore the possibility of investing in Bermuda and its people. Ms. Jones-Blackhurst’s corporate role includes being involved in exploring new jurisdictions as investment opportunities for the company, and she has travelled throughout the world to this end.

“It is also important to note that during this trip Mr. Schuetz and I met with four other large gaming operators that comprise the biggest and best brands operating in the global casino resort space. All of these appointments were made through Mr. Schuetz’s contacts in the gaming business. As I have repeatedly emphasized, we hired Mr. Schuetz because he is a known and respected gaming expert, and probably the best test of this is that he can organize a meeting with the major players in the industry quite easily, on several continents.

“Following our meeting Ms. Jones-Blackhurst went to the CEO of Caesars, Mr. Mark Frissora, and discussed her meeting with the representatives from Bermuda and the invitation to visit Bermuda. It is noteworthy that Mr. Frissora is quite familiar with Bermuda, having travelled here often. As a result, he instructed Ms. Jones-Blackhurst and Caesars’ Executive Vice President of Domestic Development Greg Miller to visit the Island and explore it as an investment opportunity.

“The two representatives of Caesars travelled to Bermuda at the expense of Caesars. They also stayed at a hotel in Hamilton, again at the expense of Caesars. Ms. Jones-Blackhurst’s arrival was somewhat delayed by a missed connecting flight. The two visiting executives toured the offices of the Commission, meeting with an investment official from the Bermuda Tourism Office, the Deputy Chair of the Commission, the Executive Director of the Commission, and the outside legal counsel to the Commission.

“They also toured the Island from end to end. During their stay they also dined with the Minister of Tourism. All individuals involved in these meetings were aware of the fact that Mr. Schuetz and Ms. Jones-Blackhurst had at one time been married, and to suggest otherwise is either a function of bad memory or an effort to deceive.

“The Commission is bewildered as to how anyone could conclude that the relationship between Mr. Schuetz and Ms. Jones-Blackhurst could constitute a conflict of interest. Such a suggestion has no basis. It is interesting to note that Mr. Schuetz published a story in Global Gaming Business, a large circulation and respected publication in the global gaming world, dated November 20, 2014 and entitled It’s Complicated.

“The story details how he was hired by the state of Kansas in 2010 to perform an analysis of Caesars financial statements in regard to the company’s desire to build and operate a casino in Kansas. Kansas was well aware of the relationship between Mr. Schuetz and Ms. Jones-Blackhurst, and clearly understood that there was not a conflict, and this published article demonstrates that reality.

“Furthermore, Caesars also fell under the purview of the California Gambling Control Commission of which Mr. Schuetz was a member from 2011 to 2015. The record in California clearly shows that Mr. Schuetz disclosed this relationship, and voted on every issue before him involving Caesars.

“What is most unfortunate is that comments made in the House of Assembly, and primarily attributed to Zane DeSilva, seem to suggest that the Caesars and Ms. Jones-Blackhurst were involved in an inappropriate activity by visiting the Island at the invitation of Mr. Schuetz. It must be understood that Caesars and Ms. Jones-Blackhurst are heavily regulated in a great many jurisdictions. The licensing scrutiny applied to both individuals and companies in regulated gambling is extreme.

“This company has 49 properties around the world, and employs approximately 68,000 people. The company is licensed and has been found suitable in regulatory environments around the globe. For a Member of Parliament in Bermuda to suggest that the company and/or a key executive is involved in an inappropriate conflict with a gaming regulator invites regulatory scrutiny that can be expensive and time consuming, and potential damage to the firm’s brand and its many employees.

“Those who wish to criticize should ensure that they have their facts right before casting aspersions. We are confident that should any regulatory entity feel compelled to look into Mr. DeSilva’s statements, it will quickly come to understand those statements for what we believe they were, namely political theatre.

“In the first month that Mr. Schuetz was on the Island, I requested appointments with the Premier, the Cabinet and the Opposition Party. The goal was to introduce Richard and establish how the Commission wanted to be treated by the politicians of Bermuda.

“As we met each group we asked that they not make us a part of the toxicity that often surrounds the political discourse of this Island. We told them we just wanted to work to execute the public policy goals of the Casino Gaming Act and help increase investment and employment in Bermuda, and enhance the tourism product.

“In the context of the Opposition, Richard and I met with Wayne Furbert, Zane DeSilva and Rolfe Commissiong for an hour and a half and answered every question they asked. We also let them know that if they ever had a question to simply call or drop by the Commission offices and we would do our best to answer it. From reading the above two listed stories that chronicle the events in the House, it is clear that they did not honour or respect our request nor take up our invitation.

“Had our request been honoured we believe the display that was put on in the House could have been avoided, and the named parties would not have made an effort to embarrass our Executive Director and a firm that has a database of over 45 million rated gamblers, that oversees 39,000 hotel rooms and suites worldwide, that has more than $1.3 billion in cash on its balance sheet, and that is held by two entities that control over $250 billion in managed funds.

“What Caesars did was pay their way to visit this Island with the thought of potentially investing hundreds of millions of dollars and employing hundreds of Bermudians. We are now concerned that our politicians may have convinced them that they are not welcome.

“Since our efforts to meet the politicians in both parties, we can easily count on one hand those politicians that have made any effort to help us achieve our goals. To these few we would like to say ‘thank you.’ To the others, we say that the economy on this Island is struggling to right itself, and the people need jobs.

“We believe that by providing well-regulated legal gaming that we can help eliminate the illegal and unregulated gaming that is taking place on the Island, and provide a sustainable source of jobs for Bermudians. We are hoping to gain your support in this endeavour, but at the very least would like to encourage you to not do any more damage to our efforts.

“To Ms. Jones-Blackhurst and Mr. Schuetz, I am sorry that your personal lives were exposed like this. It certainly is not fair. And to Caesars, we hope that you will forgive our little Island for sometimes placing politics ahead of more important goals,” added Mr Dunch.

The Bermuda Casino Gaming Commission is comprised of Chairman Dunch, Deputy Chairman Garry Madeiros, and members Judith Hall-Bean, Dennis Tucker, and Derek Ramm.

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Comments (7)

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  1. archy says:

    Good statement – bout time someone took on those idiots on the Hill and told them what life is like in the real world, you know – the one none of them actually inhabit so cocooned are they in their own self-importance up on the hill

  2. Yahoo says:

    Well said. Zip it PLP and let the OBA do their job.

  3. Terry.. says:

    Alan you have just proven the point that ties to former or current associates will cloud the Commission’s judgement as is the case with such an emotional response. The basic practice here is to not engage with anyone past or present that has even a remote personal or business tie to the Commission. We are now concerned that the Commission cannot be entrusted with regulations if this is how you are going to over react to simple line of questioning. And how this damages Bermuda in the millions of dollars and how it materially impacts poor Caesars in any way is beyond understanding.

    And you are complaining about political grandstanding? Calling the kettle black!

  4. Steven N says:

    This was an important message, and well though out, and sent by Bermuda’s Casino Commission Chairman, Alan Dunch. Casino gaming is totally about new jobs and an important tourism amenity, that will increase Bermuda hotel occupancy’s; and possibly encourage new development. A similar message needs to be sent from the Bahamas, where politics is interfering with the completion of the massive 2,200 room Baha Mar casino resort project.
    I have known and worked with Richard, at two Nevada casinos, and I have no doubt that everything that has taken place in Bermuda, was above board. There is no doubt, in my mind,that Richard is an individual with impeccable personal integrity.
    Steven N

  5. Steven N says:

    This was an important message, and well though out, and sent by Bermuda’s Casino Commission Chairman, Alan Dunch. Casino gaming is totally about new jobs and an important tourism amenity, that will increase Bermuda hotel occupancy’s; and possibly encourage new development. A similar message needs to be sent from the Bahamas, where politics is interfering with the
    completion of the massive 2,200 room Baha Mar casino resort project.
    I have known and worked with Richard, at two Nevada casinos, and I have no doubt that everything that has taken place in Bermuda, was above board. There is no doubt, in my mind, that Richard is an individual with impeccable personal integrity.
    Steven N

  6. Daniel B says:

    Terry,

    I think we all want our elected officials and civil servants to do a good job for us. However, it is a truism that societies get the ones they deserve.

    So I think we all have a duty to be reasonable to them in the hope that that creates an environment where they will be professional and behave with integrity.

    Therefore, I have to add a comment here as you seem to be very unreasonable in your criticism of the Commission.

    In terms of conflicts of interest. It is utterly impractical to expect an experienced casino administrator (or any senior business person) to “never” interact with any previous colleague/vendor. I cannot imagine any case in the real world where your statement (below) has validity;

    “The basic practice here is to not engage with anyone past or present that has even a remote personal or business tie to the Commission”?

    Part of the tool kit of any experienced professional is their address book and insights into the people across the value chain of any industry. Would you rather somebody was hired to get inward investment, and just google searched casinos? And then tried to Linked In any names that he could find? I am sure after 10 years of tax payer funded hit and misses he/she might make some progress, but isn’t it better for the tax payer if you can hire somebody like Mr Schuetz who already knows the major operators and their key decision makers and can provide the Commission with the option of who to invite and bring them to the island in short order? Isn’t that what you want from somebody in Mr Schuetz’s field? From a tax payers perspective that seems to be “bang for your buck”.

    In terms of what is common and ethical in my experience is that the personal relationships/ties etc which precede such interactions should be disclosed, which in this case Mr Schuetz seems to have done.

    There is no indication of foul play, the only indication here is that foreign investors will not be welcomed and will not be treated reasonably, and indeed will be smeared in public! That, is the clear damage that the Bermuda is doing itself.

    The damage to Caesars as you say is negligible, they are already in properties around the world and I am sure the Bermuda would not move the dial for them financially. However, isn’t that all the more reason why they should be encouraged to invest in Bermuda rather than accused of under-hand practices where there are none?

    All in all, this does seem to me to be short-term, political point scoring, which will be forgotten in the political world in a day but remembered in the business world rather longer. Why would any business invest in a jurisdiction where they will be treated like criminals simply for accepting an invitation to come and visit and scope out a possible investment in a region where such investment would provide jobs and infrastructure to the tourist industry?

    Like I said at the beginning, we all get the politicians we deserve…

  7. Terry.. says:

    Thanks Steven N (whoever you are). Your confirmation that the statement came from the Commission Chairman and your vote of confidence in Richard will result in a full retraction from the PLP! What planet are you writing us from?

    And Atlantis is not Bermuda and people who think it is or who try to draw similarities to them and us are poorly informed and should read a book.