Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcombe
By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
TOURISM Minister Obie Wilchcombe could not confirm yesterday whether the Gaming Board has made a decision on which companies were successful in their bids to obtain a gaming house operator’s license to operate legally in the country.
The announcement on which companies will receive licenses is expected by the end of this month.
However, Mr Wilchcombe, the minister responsible for gaming, said officials were still continuing the request for proposals (RFP) process and clarifying matters web shop operators “may not understand”.
Mr Wilchcombe, speaking to The Tribune from New York, said he would be able to provide more information on the process upon his return home, at which time he said he would have been able to review the information provided to him by Gaming Board officials. He added that the process has “gone well” thus far and that officials were “moving to ensure that we can shortly make some announcements.”
In March, Mr Wilchcombe confirmed that ten web shop operators submitted RFPs in their bids to obtain gaming house licenses, and were subsequently set to undergo “strict scrutiny” from the Gaming Board in order for them to operate legally in the country.
He said the ten companies would face “due diligence investigations” that would delve into all aspects of their operations” with the aim of establishing whether the applicants, their shareholders and directors, and staff are deemed to be fit and proper to hold the licenses they have applied for.
In February, Mr Wilchcombe said that the government would reveal the approved list of web shop operators in May or June. However, he did not confirm how many operators would be announced at that time.
When contacted by The Tribune for an update on the process yesterday, Mr Wilchcombe said: “At the moment we’re continuing with the RFPs. We’re continuing to look diligently into each proposal and of course with respect to owners just to clarify matters they may not understand or may not be completely clear in the proposal. But so far it’s gone well and we’re moving to ensure that we can very shortly make some announcements.”
In March, Island Luck CEO Sebas Bastian told reporters the process for applying for a license had cost his company more than $200,000.
He has since opened a new web shop location – despite the government having yet to issue a gaming house operator license to the ten shops vying to operate legally – at the former Kentucky Fried Chicken store in the Village Road shopping plaza.
However, Mr Bastian has dismissed criticism that the opening was “premature.” He said the opening of Island Luck’s “Select” web shop had been planned “long before the Gaming Bill had passed”.
He added that if he was unsuccessful in obtaining a license, the web shop would be “one, beautiful place that will be for rent”.