Atlantis Watchful Of Jamaica Casino Activity

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Atlantis has taken notice of Jamaica’s plans to become a major player in casino gaming.

President and Managing Director of Kerzner International Bahamas George Markantonis said Jamaica’s increased activi ty in the gaming realm is something to keep an eye on, given that the jurisdiction is planning to introduce three new casinos as early as 2012.

"I do think that’s going to be a problem for us. I’m not hiding it," Markantonis said.

His comments come after Jamaican gov ernment officials projected $120 million per quarter will be generated from the three pro posed casinos. Construction of one of the future gambling venues is scheduled to begin at the end of this year.

President of the Bahamas Hotel Association Stuart Bowe is also keeping an eye on the neighboring country, telling Guardian Business in an earlier interview that The Bahamas will have to continue to find ways to "maintain an edge."  He added that the gaming facet of tourism has slipped over the past several years, with casino gambling being offered in other places as a primary reason.

The new BHA president also said gaming regulations will have to be reviewed as well, something Markantonis agrees must happen.

"We have to keep working on the gaming regulations we have here and ensure that they are friendly to the casinos that are here," he said. "At the same time we have to work on our marketing programs like any thing else. We can’t just roll over, we (must) learn how to compete in a tougher market."

The Bahamas presently has three casinos Atlantis and Crystal Palace on New Providence and Treasure Bay on Grand Bahama. Revenue has dropped in both of the operations on this island, with Crystal Palace experiencing the highest revenue decline, down by 18.5 percent or $5 million from $27 million to $22 million. Atlantis indicated that its "revenue was down a little under 2009" by 8 percent, while Treasure Bay officials said it was premature to give a year-on-year comparison since they gained control of the operation in late 2009.

With Jamaica taking an aggressive approach on bringing casinos to the country, tourism minister Edmund Bartlett said applications are being taken for gaming licences and the country is aiming to become a "casino gambling experience, rather than a casino destination."

The Nassau Guardian
January 24, 2011