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Top Baha Mar executive describes vision for ‘casino-centric’ resort

New Gaming Bill ‘critical’
  • Paul Pusateri.

Guardian Business Editor

Published: Oct 04, 2013

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Baha Mar’s new chief operating officer has spelled out a vision for the resort as a gaming destination second to none in the Caribbean in terms of the variety of gaming experiences available and the level of exclusivity and service available to gamblers, while describing updated gaming legislation as “critical” to the realization of this goal.

Former Las Vegas hotelier Paul Pusateri, who was announced as COO for the upcoming mega-resort on September 25, said that Baha Mar’s 100,000 square foot casino – 55,000 square feet larger than Atlantis’ – will differentiate itself not only by its size, but also by its variety of “experiential environments”, appealing to everyone from the regular holiday gamer, to the most high-end clientele for whom private entrances, elevators, and restaurants will be provided.

“If you go through the Caribbean casinos there are mass floors and then there may be what they refer to as a high limit area that is cordoned off in a section,” said Pusateri, in his first introductory interview with the media.

“We are going to appeal to a very high end gaming customer and as such we wil have a very high-end gaming lounge, which wil be extremely well appointed. There will be finishes probably beyond what people have ever seen in terms of the design of the spaces. We will build access to rooms and gaming areas that are very private.

“A lot of the time there’s a customer with a very high end profile and wants his privacy. He’ll be able to come to Baha Mar, come in through a separate (door) and have access right into the high limit casino, not necessarily going through the public areas,” he said.

There’ll be a private elevator to take you up to your room, there’ll be a private restaurant that you can eat at, and they traditionally come with an entourage. It will be private and very elegant. These people are very wealthy and they are accustomed to a certain design style in their homes, in how they live; we know what that is and that’s what we will be designing to satisfy and service that customer. The butler service will be far beyond what has been experienced in these islands.”

For high-rolling Asian clientele, a tea sommelier will be on hand to blend and serve the teas which are the drink of choice for gamblers from China just as the cocktail may be for their Las Vegas counterparts.

The experience within the casino will be complimented by mobile gaming possibilities throughout the entire resort “campus”, which means the possibility to place and change bets on sports games from the comfort of your deck chair on the beach, or while sitting in the pool - but only if the updated gaming legislation which redefines the term “premises” to mean the entire resort, rather than just a casino floor, is passed.

For now, the resort is “experimenting” with mobile gambling thanks to temporary approvals from the Gaming Board, and claims to have had “very positive” feedback from guests.

“What we will get with the regulations is the ability to, with a hand held device, be sitting at a pool, in the lobby, in a restaurant, and you’ll have the option to make a wager. With horse racing, the race is off, your horse is running last, you have the opportunity to change your bet because of the technology.

“You can be watching basketball games and there are three foul shots and you can place a bet that says he’ll make the next one or not. You can be actively live in the middle of it. And that’s the energy of it; these are not big dollars that people are going to be wagering, but it’s a fun entertainment type interaction for sports and wagering to be combined,” explained Pusateri.

This type of “energetic” gaming environment with a “diversity of touch points” is standard in Las Vegas today, with resorts offering guests the ability to gamble while at a nightclub, in a pool, or on the beach, but has yet to be implemented throughout the Caribbean.

Robert “Sandy” Sands, Senior Vice President of External and Governmental Affairs, said that this means that by passing the upgraded gaming legislation, The Bahamas would place itself far ahead of its regional peers in terms of its competitiveness in the gaming sector and in line with top international destinations.

“The other Caribbean islands are nowhere near. This puts us at the level with jurisdictions like Vegas, Singapore, Macau. The others will have to play catch up. We’re not competing with resorts just within this region but also on a world class basis.”

Pusateri added that with the upgraded legislation, Baha Mar would become a top destination for visitors from the US east coast who might otherwise go to Las Vegas, drawing down gamblers en masse for big events such as the Super Bowl.

“When we get (the legislation) and we put together our calendar of events we will celebrate months and weekends of the year that haven’t been able to market here before, so we will be able to bring new business here to the islands. So imagine, you can have a dozen guys saying ‘lets go down to Baha Mar for Superbowl Weekend’. Not only do we have the wagering for that, but we create a weekend of events for people to come down here. We will fill the campus. The fun thing is, the beauty of the model is that we have four different brands who will bring businesses from all of their different sources of business, but from all of those brands, when we have our demand, we will be their biggest customer. The casino hotel will be buying rooms from the (hotels) for our diverse customer mix.”

Sands said that the “casino-centric” nature of Baha Mar is a “subtle but distinct difference” between the Cable Beach resort and Atlantis that may not have been much appreciated to date.

“One of the these that I think its pivotal is that it is the Atlantis Resort and Casino, but it’s Baha Mar Casino and Resort. We are a gaming environment and I want to emphasize that gaming is going to play a pivotal part in what we are all about. We are not a resort with an amenity casino, we are a casino that has a variety of hotels.”

Pusateri said that Baha Mar will set up offices in “feeder markets” throughout the world from which it hopes to draw guests, channelling in gamblers who will then buy up hotel rooms and take advantage of what the resort as a whole has to offer. He suggested that having internationally competitive gaming laws will be a key part of Baha Mar’s ability to tap into new international tourism markets, such as Asia, where destinations such as Macau are already utilising gaming technology far ahead of that permitted in The Bahamas.

The COO yesterday described his new post at Baha Mar as the “culmination of (his) career”.

“With a hospitality background in some of the greatest hotels in the world that I’ve managed, and to have been at the pinnacle of the casino industry, and then to come here and look at this campus which has been a fierce competitor of mine over the years... it’s a challenge really to anyone in my position and it’s very exciting to be able to come in and operate this, and really be a part of making the essence of what will make this unique.”

The Government has indicated plans to bring the Gaming Bill up for consideration in the current parliamentary session.

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