New Committee To Examine Gaming Laws


A committee has been formed to comprehensively examine the country's gaming laws, and its members are expected to have recommendations completed by the end of next month, Tourism Minister Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace told The Nassau Guardian.


The formation of the committee, which comprises tourism stakeholders and government officials, comes weeks after Bahamas Hotel Association president Robert Sands said the association supported a national lottery and the amendment of the gaming laws to allow foreign residents to gamble in casinos in The Bahamas.

It also comes on the heels of a "favorable and good" meeting the BHA had with Vanderpool-Wallace to discuss the issue.

"They talked to me about (gaming laws) and there are some other things that we need to do to the (legislation) that really relates to the Financial Transactions Reporting Act, to make sure that casinos onboard cruise ships are included," the minister said.

"There are a whole variety of things that need to be fixed in that act, and rather than trying to do them piece meal we decided to do it more comprehensively, so that is really what our goal is."

However, the minister stressed that he could not say at this time whether the act would be amended to allow legal foreign residents to gamble in The Bahamas.

"I cannot tell you that until after we put forth our recommendations as an entire group. We are meeting with as broad as a group of people as we possibly can to make sure we capture all the things that we want to recommend, and thereafter we will take it forward and my colleagues will decide what kind of amendments we need to make and it will go to Parliament, etc. Specifically what will be changed at this stage I cannot tell you because I merely am a member of the committee and not the person who speaks on it singularly," Vanderpool-Wallace said.

Bahamian citizens and legal residents are prohibited from gambling under the current law. However, foreign visitors are allowed to gamble.

Sands said yesterday that during the BHA's meeting with the minister the association put forward a very "compelling case".

"I think it is fair to say he agreed with some of our positions. He would consider some of our considerations and some of our positions he did not support. But we thought it was a very good meeting and we look forward to hearing how best he can bring to reality a number of the points that we have put forward," Sands said.

The BHA suggested a "shopping list of items" which spoke to the competitiveness in the jurisdiction versus South Florida, widening the net of the population count with persons who are currently excluded from gambling in The Bahamas, and the whole question of a number of procedural issues.

"That basically was the three main buckets under which we discussed opportunities for review and change as regards to gaming regulations that govern the way we operate casinos here in The Bahamas," Sands said.

If Parliament were to adopt the BHA's position and allow legal residents to gamble in casinos, supporters of the move believe that this would expand the potential base of customers at the hotels to include those on work permits and foreign nationals residing in The Bahamas.

While the BHA does not support extending casino gambling to Bahamians, Baha Mar Chairman and CEO Sarkis Izmirlian told The Nassau Guardian back in May that he would welcome Bahamians gambling in the Crystal Palace Casino. He also believes that the government would benefit substantially from a national lottery.

Izmirlian said that given the substantial revenue shortfall being experienced by the government, a national lottery could be the way to go.

"Our gaming laws in The Bahamas are just not competitive versus other jurisdictions in the U.S. and other places in the world, and we really need urgently to address our gaming regulations here in The Bahamas," he said.

Source: The Nassau Guardian


Last Updated on Monday, 13 July 2009 08:09