NASSAU, Bahamas – The Bahamas is known as a leader in the gaming industry therefore people from across the region come here for training, Bahamas Minister of State for Tourism and Aviation the Hon. Branville McCartney said at a recent Rotary Club of West Nassau Meeting.
Mr. McCartney said professionals from the Bahamas Gaming Board are training colleagues from Trinidad and Tobago, Aruba, Curacao and Suriname.
Gaming is Vital to the Economy
He also noted that gaming is vital industry for the country.
Make no mistake about it, Mr. McCartney said, gaming has become an important aspect of the overall tourism product offered to visitors to the islands of The Bahamas.
He said while significant sums continue to be contributed to the national treasury on an annual basis by the licensed casinos, there is much more that can be done.
The Minister of State explained that from 2000 to 2007, tax revenues accruing to the government of The Bahamas from the Paradise Island, Crystal Palace, the Casino at Bahamia, Isle of Capri and the casino at Emerald Bay totaled $143 million.
Gaming Board Report
He said according to a 2003 Gaming Board Report, the total number of persons employed in casinos was 2072, with 87 per cent being Bahamian compared to 315 expatriates representing 13 per cent.
Mr. McCartney also pointed out the importance of gaming for the U.S. He said the U.S boasted revenues for casino gaming totaling $32.4 billion in 2006 according to a 2007 U.S States Survey.
He explained that some 540 commercial casinos in the U.S directly employ 363,197 persons who earn a total of $13.3 billion in salaries including benefits.
These casinos contributed $5.2 billion in direct taxes to State and local U.S government coppers.
Mr. McCartney said The Bahamas’ proximity to the U.S and its well-deserved reputation as a properly regulated gaming jurisdiction must continue to be preserved.
He said the Gaming Board recognises the importance of gaming to the country and is presently addressing the de-regularisation and the finalisation of the agreement for a major review of gaming laws, which are antiquated.
The review of the existing laws includes the Lotteries and Gaming Act, the Gaming Regulations as well as the Casino Taxation Act.
He said despite the advancements of the Internet and the proliferation of gaming online, The Bahamas lacks substantive laws to regulate Internet gaming.
“In fact,” Mr. McCartney said, “no substantive amendments have been made to our casino gaming laws since 1977 when the Bahamas Hotel Corporation was established and gained control of all casino licenses.
Other jurisdictions in our region have been more progressive, notwithstanding the fact we had gaming prior to these other countries in the region.”
Pointing out that it is still illegal for Bahamians to gamble legally in the country, Mr. McCartney explained that the Turks and Caicos currently allows residents to earn a minimum of $75,000 annually to play.
Additionally, he said some countries allow a number of local bars to have one or two legal slot machines. Destinations with tourism economies such as Puerto Rico and Curacao have taken this approach to the question of allowing residents to gamble.
“They have local nights when residents are allowed to play. We have no such thing.
He also noted that in The Bahamas, foreigners who have permanent residency without the right to work and who have spent millions of dollars investing in the country cannot gamble.
It is estimated that there are thousands of persons in that category holding permanent resident status.
He explained that if these individuals were allowed to gamble, this would provide a significant market in places like Exuma, New Providence and Grand Bahama.
Mr. McCartney told the Rotarians that if nothing is done and the status quo is maintained the gaming industry will no doubt stagnate and die.
We must therefore seek to formulate more progressive policies for the promotion of gaming in The Bahamas. We should no longer continue with outdated legislation and bring card registration bonus casino gambling here into the 21st century. This should happen now.
He added, It is imperative that we fully address the question of regulation to effectively address the proliferation of Internet Gambling and to modernise our casinos gaming laws.