By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
TOURISM Minister Obie Wilchcombe said yesterday he was hopeful that the Government would get the Gaming Bill on its legislative calendar for January, telling Tribune Business: “We have to get it done.”
The Bill was tabled in the House of Assembly back in October, and Mr Wilchcombe said: “The Gaming Bill is there. We’re about to debate it. We will hopefully get it on January’s legislative calendar. We have to get it done.”
The Gaming Bill 2013, and associated regulations, will allow Bahamas-based casinos - Atlantis and Baha Mar, plus those at the Grand Lucayan and Bimini Bay resorts - to offer on-property sports betting, in-play wagering, proxy wagering and online gaming via cell phones and computers. There will also be incentives for ‘junket’ group visits.
Mr Wilchcombe said the Government was “very close” to having an operator in place to manage Grand Bahama’s only casino at the Grand Lucayan, describing bookings at the new Memories Grand Bahama Beach and Casino Resort as being “incredibly high”.
“We are preparing for an outstanding season. Grand Bahama’s bookings are incredibly good already,” he said.
“SunWing will bring thousands of visitors to Grand Bahama. We want to make sure that we are headed into an era where we have high occupancy levels.
“Gaming is important. You have to have at least one casino. We don’t want to agree to a casino that will have a short life. The casino must be equal to or better than what happens on Paradise Island, Baha Mar and Bimini. Grand Bahama deserves nothing less. We have to get a good operator there. We are very near. We’re very close. I think it’s going to happen very soon. We want to make sure that we have the operator in place very soon,.”
The 497-room Memories Grand Bahama Beach and Casino Resort is expected to open in mid-January 2014, creating some 1,000 jobs.
The Sunwing Travel Group, an affiliate of TUI, the world’s largest tour operator, will reopen the Reef Village under its Memories Hotel & Resorts brand.
The Canadian-based Sunwing Travel Group is expected to launch six flights per week service between Canada and Grand Bahama to coincide with the opening of the Reef Village. And Vacation Express, a division of Sunwing, is expected to begin service between the US and Grand Bahama starting in Spring 2014.