Government to reveal Reef Village casino bids next week
All the candidates vying to operate the casino at the Reef Village resort will be revealed next week, as the government moves one step closer to reaching a decision.
“We are making sure that in our due diligence we arrive at a company that’s going to be able to give us an immediate impact in the industry, with a client base that will allow us to appeal to other markets,” said Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcombe.
“You have to understand that it has to fit in with what we’re doing in The Bahamas. Look at Atlantis, the leader, look at Bimini now, it has Genting, and Baha Mar is seeking to have that high standard, even higher.
“So Grand Bahama cannot be a step back, it has to be equal.”
He said the announcement is expected soon as the Sunwing Group, a Canadian travel conglomerate, plans to reopen the 500-plus room Reef Village in Grand Bahama in mid-December.
The tourism minister recently confirmed to Guardian Business that among the hopeful candidates is a Bahamian group.
“We are looking at all of the applicants. We are very close and should have a decision very soon,” Wilchcombe said.
This decision comes as the government focuses on attracting viable casino operators that would bolster the country’s tourism product.
Wilchcombe also said the government is considering the application of a Bahamian investor who wants to establish a standalone casino on Grand Bahama with predominantly bingo-style games.
Late last month, Prime Minister Perry Christie confirmed the Gaming Bill will be tabled in Parliament before the summer recess as initially proposed.
However, he pledged the government’s commitment to having it before Parliament very soon.
A draft version of that bill states that the law would allow several classes of licenses; among them gaming, proxy gaming, restricted interactive gaming and junket operator licenses, Guardian Business understands.
A company must have proven expertise in the management and operation of casinos in a regulated environment, or demonstrable access to such expertise, in order to qualify for a gaming license.
The company must also be of good financial standing and have adequate means to undertake and sustain activity for which the license is required.
Only companies that hold a gaming license would qualify for the other license classes.
Back in May, the prime minister revealed government is also considering an application from a group of Bahamians for the South Ocean casino license in New Providence.