The Bahamas Hotel Association has submitted proposals to the government designed to reform the island nation’s gaming laws. Details of the proposals have not been disclosed but were described by the BHA only as “far-reaching.”
In 2009, BHA President Robert Sands said that his association supported a change to the gaming laws that would open up casino gambling to permanent residents. Under current law, only tourists are allowed to gamble at casinos in the Bahamas.
The local resort industry in general has suffered over the last two years, primarily as a result of the economic downturn. In late August, Sands told the Tribune that the Nassau-Paradise Island resorts were “60 percent of the way back” to pre-September 2008 levels regarding occupancy and revenue generation.
But the casino business has been hurt by other factors as well.
In May, George Markantonis, president and managing director of Kerzner International Bahamas, stated the problem, saying, “Our gaming business is down 15 percent year-over-year every year, because there’s so much competition around us. Every U.S. state is opening up casinos.”
Now, with Jamaica planning to issue three casino licenses, the competition for the vacationer’s casino dollar is expected to increase as well.
Sands told the Tribune that cost and product competitiveness are in the way of the Bahamas fully benefiting economically from the casino resort industry.
“We took these reforms very seriously,” he said. “We had a detailed listing that we submitted to the government of the Bahamas, and have been assured they have taken them all into consideration.”
No details of the reforms have been released.
Minister of Tourism and Aviation Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace told the Tribune that the proposed reforms submitted by the BHA and other interested parties were “all in front of me now.”
Vanderpool-Wallace said that some of the reforms would be “fairly easy to adopt” but that others needed more study. He said that the government would look at other nations that had introduced similar changes regarding casinos and analyze their results, to see what the likely effects might be in the Bahamas.
He also said that the government had some suggestions of its own.