Christie: Govt considering casino license for Bahamian group
Guardian Senior Reporter
Published: May 06, 2013
The government is considering a casino license application from a group of Bahamians for a New Providence gaming operation, Prime Minister Perry Christie said yesterday.
Last week, chartered accountant Philip Galanis told The Nassau Guardian that a group of Bahamian businessmen is in the process of applying for a casino license.
However, Christie said the application that is before his administration is separate from the group Galanis spoke of.
“Bahamians must anticipate that Bahamians will own casinos,” the prime minister told The Nassau Guardian after a church service at Faith United Missionary Baptist Church.
“Nothing in the law prevents them from owning casinos if they have the means to qualify.
“Now there are some serious qualifications. As you know, for New Providence there is only one other casino license available and that’s South Ocean. That in itself is a major acquisition.
“I have told the people of South Ocean the government will only hold that license in place but for so long because we have another application involving a Bahamian group — that Mr. Galanis is not aware of — that is talking about getting that license and using it elsewhere in New Providence.
“So the fact of the matter is yes, it is fair to anticipate that Bahamians, if they qualify for casino licenses in New Providence and/or the Family Islands, they will be able to be the beneficiary.”
This comes amid a national debate about the “discrimination” in law that prevents Bahamians from gambling while allowing foreigners to.
The government has also taken criticism over a leaked draft Gaming Bill that would allow work permit holders and permanent residents, along with tourists, to gamble in casinos and online, while upholding the prohibition against Bahamians gambling.
Christie said the group that has applied for the New Providence casino license has requested a joint venture agreement.
However, he did not say who the Bahamians are or who they will partner with if successful.
“There are other matters with respect to the casino that I will be speaking on shortly,” he added.
Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcombe, who has responsibility for gaming, said the government supports the idea of Bahamians with the capital and proper management team to enter the casino market.
He added that the government wants the gaming sector to grow beyond having casinos attached to hotels and is open to a standalone casino or slot machine parlor.
“The gaming industry is very big. I want Bahamians to become legitimized. I want Bahamians to pursue licenses and I want Bahamians to get and obtain licenses and get into a casino business.”
The new act would allow casinos to offer online and mobile gaming.
Atlantis, Baha Mar and the Grand Lucayan all have casinos. Another casino is expected to open in Bimini later this year.