Bahamian Gambling Laws
By Reno Rollins
Gambling in the Bahamas is legal as long as the activities are confined to casinos. This extends to poker and other table games, sports betting and slot machines. While discussions on Internet gambling have taken place, there are no provisions in the law to prohibit or allow such gaming.
The Gaming Board for the Commonwealth of the Bahamas was formed in 1969 in accordance with the Lotteries and Gaming Act. They are dedicated to keeping the gaming industry free of organized crime and ensuring that games are conducted fairly.
In 1978, the government amended the Lotteries and Gaming Act to allow the Hotel Corporation of the Bahamas to be the only entity allowed to grant a license to operate gaming on any premises or manage a casino.
The legal gambling age in the Bahamas is 18.
History of Gambling in the Bahamas
The first casino in the Bahamas was opened in Nassau in the late 1920s. It was called The Bahamian Club. It was followed by the opening of a small casino on the island of Cat Cay. At the time, these casinos were only open on a seasonal basis for the enjoyment of tourists.
1964 saw the opening of the first major casino on the islands, The Monte Carlo. It was located in the Lucayan Beach Hotel and operated there until it closed in 1974.
Another casino, dubbed El Casino, operated in Freeport from 1966 until 1978. It then changed ownership and operated until 1983 under the direction of Grand Bahama Management. In 1983, Princess Casino Limited was granted a license to operate the facility formerly known as El Casino. The name was changed to Princess Casino. In 2000, it was purchased by D.V.I. Freeport Casino Limited and renamed The Casino at Bahamia.
The Paradise Island Casino opened in December of 1967. In 1987, it was purchased by Donald Trump and then resold to Merv Griffin in 1988. In 1994, it was acquired by Sun International Hotels Limited, and the name was changed to Atlantis Paradise Island Casino.
The Playboy Casino opened in the Ambassador Beach Hotel in April of 1978. It stayed in business until 1983.
The Cable Beach Casino opened in 1983. In 1988, the facility received major renovations and temporarily moved to the Cable Beach Hotel. After renovations were complete, it was renamed The Crystal Palace Resort and Casino.
In 1986, a license was granted for the operation of the Lucayan Beach Casino. It ceased operations in June of 1997.
In 1995, a small Club Med casino was granted a license in San Salvador. It was named Columbus Isle Casino, but it failed to ever commence operations.
In 2003, The Isle of Capri Casino at Our Lucaya opened for business. As of this writing, it is still in operation.
In recent times, Harrah’s Entertainment had agreed to develop a six-hotel resort worth more than $2 billion dollars. However, the venture stalled in the development stage, and Harrah’s announced in March of 2008 that it was pulling out of the deal.
Casinos in the Bahamas
There are currently five casinos in operation within The Bahamas. They are:
- The Casino at Emerald Bay (Queen’s Highway, Emerald Bay, Great Exuma, Bahamas) Open 24 hours a day, this casino offers 65 gaming machines and eight table games (blackjack, craps, roulette). For more information, call (888) 7-EXUMA-7, or visit their website at www.casinoatemeraldbay.com.
- Isle of Capri (Royal Palm Way, Lucaya, Grand Bahama, Bahamas) Open daily from 10am until 5am, this casino offers 20,000 square feet of gaming space. There are 350 gaming machines and 33 table games (roulette, craps, Caribbean stud poker, blackjack and baccarat). The property also has three hotels, three bars and eleven restaurants. A sports book and race book are also available. For more information, call (242) 350-2000.
- Atlantis at Paradise Island Resort and Casino (Casino Drive, Nassau, Paradise Island, Bahamas) Open 24 hours a day, this casino offers 100,000 square feet of gaming space with 926 gaming machines (including Anchor’s Wheel of Gold and video poker) and 97 table games (3 Card Poker, American Roulette, Baccarat, Blackjack, Caribbean Stud Poker, Craps, French Roulette, Let It Ride and Mini-Baccarat). There are also 22 restaurants and two hotels with a total of 2,900 rooms. Free gaming lessons for all table games are provided. For more information, call (800) 722-7466, or visit their website at www.atlantis.com.
- Breezes Bahamas Resort (West Bay Saint Cable Beach, Nassau, New Providence Island, Bahamas) This casino offers 60 gaming machines. There are also four restaurants, one bar and a 391-room hotel. For more information, call (242) 327-5356.
- Wyndham Nassau Resort & Crystal Palace Casino (West Bay Street, Nassau, New Providence Island, Bahamas) Slot machines are open 24 hours a day, while table games are available each day from 10am until 4am. The casino offers 35,000 square feet of gaming space with 500 gaming machines and 43 table games (Baccarat, Blackjack, Craps, Let It Ride, Pai Gow Poker and Roulette). A sportsbook is also located within the casino. There are seven restaurants on the premises, as well as an 850-room hotel. For more information, call (800) 222-7466.
Bahamas Islands Facts
Located southeast of Florida in the Atlantic Ocean, the Commonwealth of The Bahamas is a popular tourist destination. It is made up of two thousand cays and seven hundred islands. Bimini is the closest island to the United States. Other notable islands include:
The ethnic makeup of The Bahamas is around 85% Black, with 12% White and 3% Asian and Hispanic. As of 2002, the population was estimated to be at 300,529.
The dominant religion on the islands are Anglican Christian, with Baptists being the largest denomination. Catholics, Methodists, Protestants, Church of God and Jehovah’s Witnesses are also present. A minority of residents also practice Obeah, which is a religion similar to Voodoo.
The official languages are English and Creole. The large number of Creole speakers is a result of numerous Haitian immigrants.
The national sport is cricket. Football, rugby, sailing, track and field, basketball, softball, baseball and American football are also popular. The country has won Olympic gold medals in sailing and track and field.
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