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Smith supports casino ownership by Bahamians

Guardian Senior Reporter

Published: May 09, 2013

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Former Chairman of the Hotel Corporation George Smith yesterday said he supports the idea of Bahamians owning casinos and added that there should be no sector of the economy that excludes local ownership.

His comments came after The Nassau Guardian revealed that the government is considering a casino license application from a group of Bahamians for a New Providence gaming operation.

“I believe that there is no business that exists in The Bahamas that a Bahamian should be prevented from playing a full and complete role in either as owners or as patrons,” Smith said.  “I believe Bahamians should be permitted to go into casinos to gamble and the only thing that should prohibit anybody – Bahamian or foreign – to go into a casino is their behavior.

“If we are to expand the ownership of casinos in this country, Bahamians must be entitled to have casino licenses.  If it’s going to be in The Bahamas, yes Bahamians should own it and they should be permitted to gamble.”

Smith also said he thought it was time for the country to explore whether standalone casinos, not attached to hotels, could flourish.

“Professionals who are in the business should be consulted on it and I think we should examine any new idea, which is put on the table, and see how it can cause the economy of The Bahamas to grow.  I think it’s worth examining.”

Chartered accountant Philip Galanis said that a Bahamian group he represents will make an application to the government for a casino license within two weeks.  He said that he knows of another Bahamian group that plans to do the same.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Perry Christie told The Nassau Guardian that there is no law that prevents qualified Bahamians from owning a casino.  He also said that his administration had already received a casino licence application from Bahamians.

“Now there are some serious qualifications,” he said.  “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.”

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