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New Freeport casino nears final approval

Port Authority endorses Bahamian group’s proposal
Guardian Business Editor

Published: May 15, 2013

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The Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA) has given preliminary approval for a casino headed by Bahamian investors, representing a first for the country's tourism product.

Lucaya Amusement Limited, spearheaded by three key investors, received the nod from GBPA in a letter dated earlier this month.

The $15 million facility would include slot machines, a "bingo parlor", food and beverage outlets, night club, beer garden and a rooftop movie and dinner attraction.

Ian Rolle, the president of GBPA, said that he was "elated" that such a major tourist attraction is being proposed for the island, which will create employment opportunities and provide a much-needed economic boost.

According to a spokesperson from Lucaya Entertainment Limited, the gaming and entertainment facility hopes to open in tandem with the reopening of Reef Village.

Blue Diamond Hotels and Resorts, an affiliate of the Sunwing Group, will open the 500-plus resort in the next eight to 10 months.

The new casino, located between Seahorse Road and Bell Channel Road, would be around 63,000 square feet and comprise three floors, the spokesperson said.

The Bingo Hall is slated for the ground and first floor, according to the master plan, and will accommodate up to 400 people.

The building has been designed with an open and airy concept, including a glass facade and state-of-the-art technology.

Smaller food and beverage outlets will be scattered throughout the building, the spokesperson added, with the beer garden, night club, restaurant and movie theater on the top floor.

The company said it would gladly welcome Bahamians in the casino if the laws are amended.

"This is a Bahamians first, to own the first entertainment and gaming destination in the country," the spokesperson said.

"We don't want to compete with Atlantis or Baha Mar. We want to carve out a niche and we welcome Bahamians to gamble there. Bahamians gambling in casinos is going to happen in the future."

The Bahamian investors wish to remain anonymous until full approval is granted.

The landmark move follows suggestions by Prime Minister Perry Christie this month that the government is considering a casino license application from Bahamians in New Providence.

While locals are currently barred from gambling in this nation's casinos, he said that nothing in the law prevents Bahamians from owning these businesses, if they have the means to qualify.

Fred Mitchell, the minister of foreign affairs, recently stated in the House of Assembly that more Bahamians should be given opportunities to build major destinations and play a leading role in running the economy.

GBPA's recent approval for Lucaya Entertainment Limited could be a major, if not historic step in this direction.

Although the gaming and entertainment complex is approved in principle, the GBPA president also outlined a number of conditions.

Approval from the town planning department, approval from the Gaming Board, proof of financing and submission of a formal license application to GBPA are listed among the outstanding conditions.

Investors in the project said that the gaming facility would create at least 200 jobs.

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