BHTA charts ‘competitive erosion’ in gambling sector, which comes at cost for resorts, govt and all Bahamians
The Bahamas Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) says that casinos in this country rank at the very bottom in revenue generation when compared to casino operators globally.
Throwing their weight behind the much-anticipated yet controversial Gaming Act, the tourism body said this "competition erosion" has come at a significant cost to the operators, the government and, by extension, all Bahamians.
Research undertaken by the BHTA revealed that revenue has remained flat for years, while other countries have seen growth and rising employment numbers.
"In reviewing data on 80 casino operators globally, as a jurisdiction The Bahamas ranks at the bottom in revenue per casino, outpaced by places like Singapore, Macau, Atlantic City and Biloxi, Mississippi," said Stuart Bowe, the president of BHTA. "When we look at the reasons, it is clear that other jurisdictions have responded to the times, consumer demands and have improved their consumer offerings and regulatory framework."
The statement by BHTA comes shortly after Guardian Business exclusively revealed that Cantor Gaming, a company out of Las Vegas, began a "test run” of its mobile gaming service on Monday.
Cantor has been enlisted by Atlantis to provide mobile gaming and construct a sports betting facility at the mega resort.
Obie Wilchcombe, the minister of tourism, confirmed that Atlantis received an exemption for this "test run" and must later sign on officially under the Gaming Act, which should be debated and passed in the House of Assembly in the near future.
In his statement to Guardian Business, Bowe said that modernization of this country's gaming laws would result in $17 million to $30 million in additional tax revenue. Bahamians could also expect more employment opportunities as the industry widens.
The BHTA has made recommendations to government on this issue since 2009, Bowe added, and called the reforms "long-overdue". The Bahamas has not updated its laws since 1969. Meanwhile, gaming throughout the world is trending towards online rather than offering a physical space.
"The 1969 Act needed update due to innovations in Internet technology. mobile gaming, a proliferation of new games based on consumer demand, and modern best practices which have been incorporated into casino operations globally," the BHTA president added.
While the business community and indeed government have acknowledged the need for gambling reforms in casinos, a heated debate on whether Bahamians should be allowed to participate has clouded the issue.
The web shop bosses, which offer online gambling in underground "numbers houses", felt the timing of the legislation is insulting and once again highlights a discriminatory policy. However, a national referendum on gambling a few months back said no to the legalization of gambling in The Bahamas, although fewer than 50 percent of the population participated.
Mobile gaming at Atlantis allows tourists to play games on smartphones, laptops and tablet devices by downloading Cantor Gaming's application, inputting a password and providing account information. Atlantis has become the first casino in the region to off this technology.
The Nassau Guardian
Published: Apr 30, 2013