New Casinos a Win-Win

The country stands to double its tax revenues from gaming over the next five years as three more casinos come to the table – new players likely to add, not take from existing operations. „The possibility exists, all things being equal, that the government could double its tax revenue from casinos with the addition of these new operations,“ said gaming board secretary Bernard Bonamy. The government already does quite well with the existing four. In 2006, it raked in BSD 14.1 million, through a dual system of taxation. „The government gets its money from a basic casino tax and a tax on the casino’s winnings,“ said the board head. „When the house wins, it pays a portion of that to government.“ The revenue was, for the most part, generated in Nassau/Paradise Island, at the Atlantis and Crystal Palace gaming houses. That latter is the region’s largest.

Freeport’s Isle of Capri property and another one attached to the Four Seasons at Exuma are smaller, contributing less to the overall pot. Joining them over the next five years will be South Ocean’s own casino on New Providence and two for Grand Bahama — Ginn Sur Mer’s Westend facility and the other as part of a re-opened Royal Oasis. The changing dynamics of the local tourism industry, and the segment growth of its cruise business, may challenge new and old operations, even if, as proposed, BSD 10 billion in development adds a third more stopover visitors. For Grand Bahama, in particular, the new entrants may further compromise the position of the Isle of Capri casino, now the island’s sole operator. Its Missouri-based parent company reversed a decision to close up that shop after winning a tax reduction from the government in May. „We have appreciated the benefits of having that reduced tax rate,“ said Eddie Llambias, general manager for the Lucaya facility, pointing to a 7.5 percent flat tax on gross gaming revenue replacing an effective rate of 19 to 20 percent. The Isle of Capri property did, in fact, run in the red last year. Still Llambias welcomes the step-up in competition.

„I’m very excited,“ he said. „I’m a strong advocate of more product on the island. More room inventory means more casino customers and we will all benefit – it’s a good thing all around.“

The VP of external affairs for Baha Mar is expressing the same sentiment, as the Cable Beach developer plans to overhaul its existing casino operation, with new partner Harrah’s Entertainment at its side.

He’s not concerned about the addition of South Ocean’s facility to this country’s largest destination.

„We don’t see them (the three new casinos) having an impact from a New Providence perspective,“ said Robert Sands. Harrah’s with its extensive customer list, including some of the highest of high rollers, should help the casino add to its client base. Llambias is counting on the same kind of synergism, hoping to draw clients from a new sister operation in Florida. „We are realizing the benefits of the high-net-worth clients at our operation in Pompano Park in Broward/Palm Beach,“ he said. The government — if only in a small way — appears to be betting on that success.