By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Chief Reporter
BAHA Mar has received government approvals for its gaming licence, clearing the path for its casino operations ahead of its soft launch in three weeks, Tourism Minister Obie Wilchcombe confirmed yesterday.
Mr Wilchcombe said the approvals for a gaming
licence and associated certificates of suitability were granted after a comprehensive probity investigation, and on the recommendation of the Gaming Board.
He noted that there were no written comments or objections from the public within the designated 21-day period after the application was advertised, in compliance with requirements of the Gaming Act 2014.
The gaming application was submitted by Chow Tai Fook Enterprises (CTFE) subsidiary Sky Warrior Bahamas Ltd, trading as Baha Mar.
In a statement yesterday, Mr Wilchcombe said: “As required by the (Gaming) Act, a comprehensive probity investigation was conducted into the application. Through this investigation, which was based on all the eligibility criteria for licensing contained in the Act, the applicant and all persons, whether natural or juristic, holding a direct or indirect financial interest of five per cent or more in it were thoroughly examined against these criteria.
“Under Section 20(2) of the Act, the Gaming Board for the Bahamas held a hearing in respect of the application, including having hosted a gathering, which was accessible to the public, at which the applicant presented the key features of the project to which its application for a gaming licence pertained, and responded to questions posed to it by the public.”
Mr Wilchcombe’s statement continued: “The Gaming Board, having considered the application and the report submitted to it in respect of the probity investigation, recommended the approval of the application for a gaming licence and the various related certificates of suitability.
“Having thoroughly reviewed these recommendations, as well as the investigation report and all other documentation pertaining to the application, I have reached the conclusion that the application, the applicant and its material stakeholders have all met the qualification requirements for licensing set forth in the Act, and therefore have resolved to grant a gaming licence (subject to appropriate conditions) to Sky Warrior Bahamas Limited and certificates of suitability to its material shareholders.”
He added: “The Gaming Board and its staff will continue to work with the applicant to ensure that the prevailing pre-opening requirements leading up to the soft opening of the Baha Mar Casino on April 21, 2017, are duly met.”
Last week, Graeme Davis, president of Chow Tai Took Enterprises’ (CTFE) Bahamian subsidiary, pushed back at “baseless” and “untrue” allegations contained in an open letter to the Gaming Board, which accused the resort’s buyer of being allegedly associated with “international crime” organisations through its link to a Macau gaming group.
The allegations were put forth in a paid advertisement by “Bahamians who want a better Bahamas” in The Tribune. The ad asked the Gaming Board to take note of concerns about alleged “documented associations with international crime” and the owners of CTFE, Baha Mar’s buyer.
At the resort’s public hearing on Friday, Baha Mar’s new owner hit back at opposition claims that the soft opening was a “sham”, pledging that it will not repeat the mistakes of previous developer, Sarkis Izmirlian.
At the time, Mr Davis said that the Hong Kong-based conglomerate has “one chance to get it right” during his presentation for the resort’s licence to own and operate the project’s 100,000 square foot casino, the largest in the Caribbean.