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Gaming revenues ‘stagnant’ at $145m

  • Andre Rollins. FILE

Guardian Business Reporter

Published: Oct 04, 2013

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While gaming revenues in the country have been “stagnant” at around $145 million annually in recent years, Gaming Board Chairman Dr. Andre Rollins said he thinks The Bahamas could become a major player in the gaming industry once the Gaming Bill is passed.

“We haven’t seen a measurable improvement in our performance and so that is why operators like Atlantis are really doing this jurisdiction a service by investing in their product to make it fresher and more modern to appeal to a more discerning travel public,” he told reporters yesterday.

“Gaming revenues have been pretty much stagnant and really flat so to speak for the last few years.”

Rollins’ comments came as Atlantis officially unveiled its new state-of-the-art $5 million Cantor Gaming Race and Sports Book facility during a brief ribbon cutting ceremony on Thursday morning.

Currently, The Bahamas generates approximately $145 million annually in gross gaming revenues. But that figure is expected to significantly increase once the Gaming Bill is passed. Rollins anticipates that it will be before Parliament by year’s end.

“I am hopeful, along with industry stakeholders that this will come to be so we will be able to increase the size of our gaming industry. We believe that revamped legislation will go a long way in helping The Bahamas to increase its share in the market,” he said.

“The private sector has said that through this new legislation, they will be able to triple or quadruple that figure. If that happens, it’s a win-win for casino operators and the government.

“Even a small player like Mississippi is beyond the $1 billion mark. When people think of gaming, they normally think of jurisdictions like Nevada. Here it is, we are not even near the small bit players.”

The proposed Gaming Bill would introduce an entirely new mobile and online gaming segment to the Bahamian resorts’ gaming offerings, allowing The Bahamas to tap into what is a projected to be a $100 billion industry globally in 2015.

It would also allow hotel guests to gamble at pools or beachside on smartphones or handheld tablets.

Atlantis President and Managing Director George Markantonis said there is no real sense of “urgency” at this point to have the bill brought to Parliament, understanding that it has to be carefully evaluated.

“We know that the gaming legislation recommendations are being reviewed by the government. And we respect that gaming has to be regulated very carefully so I am sure that whatever is the right thing to be done, it will be done,” he told Guardian Business.

However, just last month Baha Mar’s senior vice president and general counsel, Uri Clinton, called on the government to “urgently” pass the Gaming Bill, noting that Baha Mar needs time to “budget, plan and train” to ensure that it can take immediate advantage of the new laws when the doors open in 2014.

In the meantime, the Gaming Board chairman said the regulatory entity has already begun investing in new technology that will modernize its operations and phase out physical gaming inspectors.

“There is an area within that building that will be the confines for a very sophisticated remote monitoring system that allows us to see what is going on in all of the casinos throughout the Commonwealth of The Bahamas,” according to Rollins.

“In the past, we have had gaming inspectors. There is not much of an emphasis being placed on that as a result of the recommendations by external consultants.

“We have begun and will continue to invest in new technology to permit remote monitoring so that we are not necessarily in need of as much physical presence. We will have a technological capability at the Gaming Board’s office located just off Collins Ave.”

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