By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
TOURISM Minister Obie Wilchcombe yesterday described the casino gaming industry as being “fundamentally important” to the Bahamas tourism product, noting that proposed reforms were vital if it was to compete with rival jurisdictions.
“We have had a number of proposals put to us by our industry partners” said Mr Wilchcombe. “We have taken a look at them. We have been able to look at what’s going on around the world, assess what’s happening in other jurisdictions and appreciate that we brought legislation for the gaming industry.
“The gaming industry is fundamentally important to what we offer as a tourist destination. It’s an amenity. You cannot expect to attract persons who participate when you consider the fact that you have Singapore, Macau, Las Vegas and Florida.
“All of these places are introducing new games. We have to be competitive.”
He added: “Many of the Caribbean countries that didn’t have gaming before are now considering gaming or have introduced gaming. Our legislation is seeking to advance our gaming to ensure that we are offering what is being offered around the world and even better, so that we can attract more people, because tourism is our main industry.”
The Gaming Act 2013, and associated regulations, will allow Bahamas-based casinos - those at Atlantis and Baha Mar, plus those at the Grand Lucayan and Bimini Bay resorts - to offer sports betting, in-play wagering and online gaming via cell phones and computers.
There will also be incentives for ‘junket’ group visits. The Bahamian casinos are also set to enjoy an expansion of their customer base, with the amended law removing the prohibition on non-Bahamian permanent residents and work permit holders gambling in their establishments.