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News Article

January 07, 2012
PLP wants answers on Atlantis deal

With ongoing worries in some circles over the recently announced Atlantis ownership change, the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) yesterday renewed demands for the government to make public the details of the asset transfer agreement between Brookfield Asset Management and Kerzner International.
The PLP said the government "must immediately come clean to the Bahamian people in the public interest".
In late November, Kerzner International Chairman and CEO Sir Sol Kerzner announced that his company was transferring ownership of Atlantis Resort and the One&Only Ocean Club to Canadian real estate conglomerate Brookfield Asset Management, one of his company's lenders.
Sir Sol also said at the time that he received a commitment from the new owner that staffing and capital investment levels will be maintained.
But the PLP said yesterday that, "With the jobs of more than 7,000 Bahamian employees at stake and with uncertainty among the affected workers, this government's insensitivity and lack of transparency are proof positive that it does not put the well being of Bahamians first -- above their narrow political interests and above special interests."
The PLP called on the government to say whether there are any guarantees in the agreement to protect and preserve those jobs, wages and benefits and if so, what the terms, conditions and duration are of such guarantees.
"The PLP reminds the FNM about its much-touted principles of public life where transparency and accountability were prominently featured," the party's statement said.
"Many Bahamian families are relying on these jobs so it's incumbent upon the government to be seen to be fighting for the rights of and protecting the interests of Bahamians. Our people deserve no less."
Kerzner signed a four-year management contract for Atlantis, a move that ignited concerns among the business community on the long-term health of the biggest private employer in The Bahamas.
This week, Guardian Business noted that the deadline for the transfer of Kerzner International's assets in The Bahamas and Mexico has come and gone.
Brookfield agreed to exchange approximately $175 million of debt for the holdings, which include Atlantis Resort, The One&Only Ocean Club and the One&Only Palmilla in Mexico. The agreement ended months of speculation as Kerzner International sought to restructure $2.6 billion in mortgage debt.
Zhivargo Laing, the state minister of finance, told Guardian Business he was unsure of where the matter stood.
He said he had not been following the matter but expressed confidence that the deal was well in hand.
Ed Fields, the senior vice president of public affairs and retail services at Kerzner International (Bahamas), said the agreement is "moving along as planned".
"The delay is attributable to the time of year and the complexity of the transaction," he told Guardian Business.
Meanwhile, in Toronto, the senior vice president of communications at Brookfield Asset Management, Andrew Willis, insisted "there's nothing out of the ordinary with the process".
"We're working with all parties to close the transaction," he said.
When he spoke in the House of Assembly on the matter in November, Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham said he had received assurances that the 7,000 jobs Kerzner provides on Paradise Island were secure.

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News Article

July 14, 2012
Revival of casino investment

The announcement that Resorts World Genting in partnership with RAV Bahamas, Ltd. will open a 10,000 square foot casino at the Bimini Bay Resort and Marina this December is welcome news. With unemployment hovering around 15 percent and Grand Bahama struggling with unemployment around 21 percent, this investment has near term tangible benefits.
The Bahamas needs a diverse portfolio of hotel accommodations and entertainment, a luxury boutique gaming resort certainly adds to that repertoire. We can thank Atlantis for a grand introduction to the mass tourist market but The Bahamas is much more than Paradise Island, we are a nation of 700 islands and surely the world is ready to see more.
With global press coverage, it begs the question as to who is Resorts World Genting? Resorts World Genting falls under Genting Malaysia Berhad, part of the multinational Genting Group, a consortium of companies and brands with significant market exposure in Asia only recently expanding to the Western Hemisphere.
The Bahamas is right to encourage and invite investment from the Genting Group; Resorts World Genting Resorts knows how to operate world class integrated resorts. World Genting won the World's Leading Casino Resort in 2005, 2007-2010, and Asia's Leading Casino Resort from 2005-2010.
As the prime minister noted, "Their vast customer base, marketing clout, and state-of-the-art operations will have a very positive impact on Bimini Bay Resort and the local economy, creating new construction and permanent operational jobs as well as entrepreneurial opportunities for Bahamians."
The Resorts World Genting brand name cannot be underestimated, the mere announcement of investment in The Bahamas made worldwide headlines thrusting The Bahamas into spotlight. This publicity attracts the attention of potential investors and developers; The Bahamas is open for business.
But there are still questions. Bimini has a population of 2,008 according to preliminary Census 2010 data released by the Department of Statistics. With an estimated 300 new jobs in the immediate future and the potential for additional 700, how will Bimini cope with the rapid increase in population?
Bimini will require substantial infrastructural improvements in the very near term to meet the expectations of the high net-worth individuals it so desperately seeks. Will Bimini's runway be expanded to accommodate larger jets? Will utilities be able to keep up with increased demand as the local and tourist population swell?
Should the casino operate with such predicted success to increase Bimini's economy by 25 percent; Bimini's infrastructure must be ready to handle the success.
And this leads to the definition of success, while predicted to be an economic success, is this a social success? We have gained the investment of an award winning integrated resort group, Genting, and yet, the very center of their investment, a luxury boutique casino touted with windows to display the tranquil beauty of The Bahamas, leaves Bahamians outside looking in? We praise the investment and invite all to enjoy the splendor of our country, but are Bahamians left out?

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News Article

September 19, 2012
Realtors see potential in shared ownership

The real estate industry has not benefitted much from shared ownership investments in the past, but top realtors are confident about its place in the sector to generate sales and employment.
John Christie and Larry Roberts admitted to Guardian Business that shared ownership has not been popular in the local market, noting that internationally-based companies tend to benefit. Christie, vice president at H.G. Christie Limited, called shared ownership investments such as timeshares more of a lifestyle choice rather than an investment.
"I think where The Bahamas is benefitting from in that market is at places like the Reef at Atlantis, where you actually own your unit and you are able to enter it into the rental pool. Baha Mar is doing the same. That's where The Bahamas benefits from in terms of timeshare or vacation ownership," he pointed out. "I think timeshares are great if you love the place and plan to visit often. Then they work well. I don't really think of timeshares as an investment but more of a lifestyles choice. If you're coming to Atlantis over and over and you love it, then it's good to have a timeshare. I am not sure if they go up in value or not. It operates differently than real estate."
According to the CEO of Bahamas Realty Larry Roberts, shared ownership is an industry that has evolved over time. However, it is not one that local realtors are familiar with.
"It's not an industry that any of us knows that well. It's an industry that has evolved over time. The West Winds properties were two of the first timeshare properties. Fractional ownership is where a number of people might own a property for the whole year. In other words, they have a membership that entitles them to whatever period that particular home is vacant for. The Ritz Carlton on Winding Bay has fractional ownership," he explained.
"Everyone has been working on other ways of selling these properties, to offer persons who may not want to otherwise own it outright an opportunity to have an interest in a lovely property in a great location, which is less than the cost to own it outright."
There are different products that have evolved as a result of timesharing, such as the condo-hotel concept, he noted. He said the concept appears to have worked quite well for resorts on Paradise Island.
"As a realtor, I welcome any type of development that works because it creates more jobs. I think it's a win-win all the way around," Roberts said.
The comments from top realtors come as delegates gather at the Peabody in Orlando for a Shared Ownership Investment Conference. It is designed for those who want to learn more about the future trends in resort financing, sales, marketing, and operations in that industry.
The conference ends on Thursday afternoon.

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News Article

January 18, 2012
Defending the indefensible

Dear Editor,

During the mid-1980s, Michael Jordan played professional basketball for the Chicago Bulls.  His first six years were marred with many individual accolades, but no championship rings.  Jordan was the subject of a whirlwind of criticism because he could not bring home the championship trophy, and rightly so.
Coaches were fired and new players were brought in until at last, in 1990, the Bulls defeated the Los Angeles Lakers to win their first ever NBA Championship.  Deservedly so, the Bulls remained one of the hottest NBA tickets for a number of years.  They played staggering defense, had a great offense and played team basketball.  They were the epitome of a great basketball team and the city of Chicago and the NBA reaped the rewards.
From 2002-2007, the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) brought continuing growth to the Bahamian economy.  Our tourism product was doing very well and I know personally of persons who had two jobs.  The PLP commercialized their success through press conferences, press releases and print media, albeit their campaign was ineffective.  The PLP also had a few major scandals which many Bahamians believed were not effectively dealt with by Perry Christie.  Many Bahamians believe that his indecision vastly contributed to the PLP's lost in 2007.  It has also come to light that Christie allowed the Bahamian assets in Atlantis to be used as collateral for Sir Sol Kerzner's ambitious investment campaign oversees.   Christie should be given credit for the good progress that the economy made during this time and he should also be given credit for the bad decisions that he made during his tenure.
In 1992, Hubert Ingraham ushered in a new chapter in Bahamian history.  He opened the airwaves - a move that I believe has deepened the democracy in The Bahamas.  He completed the deal for Atlantis to begin business operation on Paradise Island - a single move that I believe has positively contributed to the stability of The Bahamas for the last 18 years.
Since 2007, The Bahamas has seen major infrastructural work.  We have seen the completion of the straw market, the ongoing work at Lynden Pindling International Airport, the completion of the Milo Butler Highway, the completion of a new court complex on Nassau Street, the commencement of the Baha Mar project and the reconstruction of underground water mains and the paving of new roads in New Providence.  Ingraham and his Cabinet are to be given credit for these capital works, but be reminded that all governments have the responsibility to build infrastructure.
Additionally, since 2007, The Bahamas has seen four murder records in five years.  We have seen major spikes in unemployment and unemployment, rape, armed robbery and several scandals involving missing or unaccounted funds at several government ministries.  We have also seen mismanagement on major projects and a soaring national debt.  Who can forget the scandal at the Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority (URCA)?
My point is that just as Ingraham, Christie and their Cabinets receive praises for the good that they have done, they must also share in the items gone wrong.  This applies to all past and future governments.  You can't have it both ways.
When Jordan was losing, he was blamed.  When he started to win, he was known as the catalyst for their victories.  There is no difference with our present government and it will be no different with future governments.  A spade will always be a spade. Let's evaluate our government's performance as it unfolds and call it as we truly see it; put our love for party aside and try to see issues from a nationalistic perspective.
There is no need to 'pretty up' our commentary.  There is no advantage to be gained for covering up known facts and telling untruths.  Bahamians need to stop trying to defend the indefensible, especially when the facts exist to prove otherwise.
 
- Dehavilland Moss

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News Article

January 12, 2012
Atlantis owners to refinance debt

The arrangements associated with the takeover of Kerzner International's Paradise Island properties call for the new owners to refinance Kerzner's $2.1 billion loan within the next two years, The Nassau Guardian has confirmed. Kerzner's failure to make payments relative to the loan prompted one of its lenders, Brookfield Asset Management, to take over Atlantis, the One&Only Ocean Club on Paradise Island, as well as its Mexican property.
There are growing concerns in the business community over the ownership change and the implications it could have for economic activity.
The Nassau Guardian understands that the government does not see Brookfield as a suitable fit for Atlantis.  The Canadian conglomerate has no experience in owning hotels; however, it has entered into a four-year agreement with Kerzner to manage Atlantis.
Amid lingering concerns about the implications of the ownership change, The Nassau Guardian has continued seeking details in the matter as many people wait to see whether the management agreement between Kerzner and Brookfield will be made public.
Kerzner had various lenders but Brookfield was the smallest.
According to a Guardian source, Chairman of Kerzner International Sir Sol Kerzner was blindsided in his months-long bid to keep the properties under the ownership of Kerzner International.
Sir Sol had reportedly been confident that he could prevent the takeover because he thought he had support of shareholders in his attempt to secure new funding.  However, board members out voted him.
It has also been suggested that he felt disappointed after he was unable to get the support of important investors.
Although Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham and Sir Sol have both said that the nearly 8,000 jobs on Paradise Island are not at risk, many employees are jittery over the development -- particularly as a formalized deal between Kerzner, as manager, and Brookfield, as owner, has not been made public.
The expectation is that Brookfield's immediate concern will be to sell the assets.
Earlier this week, The Nassau Guardian reported that job security on Paradise Island is tied to certain high revenue targets that Kerzner will be required to meet in an environment of ongoing global economic uncertainty.
It is understood that Brookfield expects that higher rates will help Kerzner achieve the new revenue targets.  The Ingraham administration believes that the former government erred when it allowed the Paradise Island properties to be used as collateral for mortgages held overseas.
Over the last several days, the Democratic National Alliance (DNA) has called on the government to come clean about the details of the Atlantis takeover and has asserted that jobs are at risk.
"The management agreement between Kerzner and the new owner can be terminated at any time with penalty and even requires Atlantis to increase profits by about 20 percent each year in an (environment) described by the prime minister as a time of global economic and financial uncertainty," DNA leader Branville McCartney said earlier.
Kerzner will not be able to meet these high targets unless staff cuts are made and operating costs are cut, McCartney believes.
Brookfield is taking over the Kerzner properties in a $175 million debt for equity swap.  Developments relating to the ownership change are being closely watched in many circles as Kerzner International is the country's largest private employer with an annual payroll of approximately $189 million.

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News Article

July 05, 2012
Revival of casino investment

The announcement that Resorts World Genting in partnership with RAV Bahamas, Ltd. will open a 10,000 square foot casino at the Bimini Bay Resort and Marina this December is welcome news. With unemployment hovering around 15 percent and Grand Bahama struggling with unemployment around 21 percent, this investment has near term tangible benefits.
The Bahamas needs a diverse portfolio of hotel accommodations and entertainment, a luxury boutique gaming resort certainly adds to that repertoire. We can thank Atlantis for a grand introduction to the mass tourist market but The Bahamas is much more than Paradise Island, we are a nation of 700 islands and surely the world is ready to see more.
With global press coverage, it begs the question as to who is Resorts World Genting? Resorts World Genting falls under Genting Malaysia Berhad, part of the multinational Genting Group, a consortium of companies and brands with significant market exposure in Asia only recently expanding to the Western Hemisphere.
The Bahamas is right to encourage and invite investment from the Genting Group; Resorts World Genting Resorts knows how to operate world class integrated resorts. World Genting won the World's Leading Casino Resort in 2005, 2007-2010, and Asia's Leading Casino Resort from 2005-2010.
As the prime minister noted, "Their vast customer base, marketing clout, and state-of-the-art operations will have a very positive impact on Bimini Bay Resort and the local economy, creating new construction and permanent operational jobs as well as entrepreneurial opportunities for Bahamians."
The Resorts World Genting brand name cannot be underestimated, the mere announcement of investment in The Bahamas made worldwide headlines thrusting The Bahamas into spotlight. This publicity attracts the attention of potential investors and developers; The Bahamas is open for business.
But there are still questions. Bimini has a population of 2,008 according to preliminary Census 2010 data released by the Department of Statistics. With an estimated 300 new jobs in the immediate future and the potential for additional 700, how will Bimini cope with the rapid increase in population?
Bimini will require substantial infrastructural improvements in the very near term to meet the expectations of the high net-worth individuals it so desperately seeks. Will Bimini's runway be expanded to accommodate larger jets? Will utilities be able to keep up with increased demand as the local and tourist population swell?
Should the casino operate with such predicted success to increase Bimini's economy by 25 percent; Bimini's infrastructure must be ready to handle the success.
And this leads to the definition of success, while predicted to be an economic success, is this a social success? We have gained the investment of an award winning integrated resort group, Genting, and yet, the very center of their investment, a luxury boutique casino touted with windows to display the tranquil beauty of The Bahamas, leaves Bahamians outside looking in? We praise the investment and invite all to enjoy the splendor of our country, but are Bahamians left out?

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News Article

September 30, 2013
Nation for sale, pt.3

"The social object of skilled investment should be to defeat the dark forces of time and ignorance, which envelop our future."- John Maynard Keynes
In part one of the "Nation for Sale" series, we questioned whether The Bahamas has become a nation for sale to the highest or best positioned foreign bidders. In part two, we considered the legacies of our prime ministers, past and present, to determine whether by their policies regarding foreign investors, we have been and continue to be a nation for sale. This week, we would like to Consider This... do we need to urgently adopt a modern, progressive investment policy for the 21st century if we are going to finally realize the dream of empowering Bahamians in a more meaningful way?
The anchor project template
In his first term as prime minister, Perry Christie accentuated the benefits of his government's anchor project policy. The plan was to have a substantial investment, anchored on each major island of The Bahamas with the tripartite objective of (1) expanding the economic activity on that island, (2) encouraging residents to stay there instead of migrating to islands where greater employment opportunities existed and (3) encouraging persons who had left their island to return because of the jobs and other economic prospects that would be created by such anchor projects.
The government felt that anchor projects could be achieved by offering foreign investors large tracts of Crown land for which, in some cases, the government would receive an equity position in the project. The thinking was that the government would provide the land for the investment, and the foreign investor would offer shares to the government. The application of this policy would conceptually present a mutually beneficial result, and, in the fullness of time, there would be cumulative benefits to our citizens. Few would challenge the rationale of such a policy, but there were some unanswered questions.
A more progressive variant of this approach would entail a government policy that ensures that the residents of the island on which the anchor project is situated receive concessions for the ancillary Bahamian-owned enterprises that will inevitably flow from such anchor projects. Hence, local entrepreneurs would know that the government policy would ensure that the businesses related to the primary investment, including transportation, watersports, artists and artisans, restaurants, night clubs, laundry facilities and other related services that would spin off from the primary investment, would be available only to them. It is not enough for a government to focus only on the primary anchor investor; it is equally important to engage urban planners, architects, environmentalists and others to ensure that a holistic approach to development is undertaken from start to finish.
Granting concessions
Another enticement to foreign investors is the granting of concessions by the government, usually in the form of financial benefits, including, for example, a tax holiday for a certain period of time. Perhaps the "mother of all concessions" was that granted to the Grand Bahama Port Authority, which to this day is the beneficiary of enormous tax and other advantages. Similarly, the hundreds of millions of dollars granted to Kerzner International were as breathtaking as they were mind-boggling for a company that landed on our shores only with the promise of raising the sunken city of Atlantis from the ashes of a dated, lackluster and tired property that had changed ownership several times in a single decade.
The granting of concessions is a practical tool used by governments the world over as an inducement to foreign investment. However, the larger consideration is whether the country is really getting value for the concessions that it bestows on foreign investors and, if so, to what extent? The answer to the question is that we really don't know.
The reality of this approach is that the foreign investor wins coming and going. They benefit by having considerable taxes waived, often for lengthy periods of time, with the justification that they create jobs, which is a noble objective. But they also win by not being required to pay any taxes when they repatriate the profits that they earn in The Bahamas.
If we are going to be more discerning in our approach to foreign direct investment, we need to be able to better quantify the benefits that accrue to the country before we offer and grant concessions to such investors. The simplistic and politically expedient approach to obtaining jobs in return for concessions is no longer enough. While this template might have worked in the past, this model fosters a country of servile workers who own little or nothing, who are not empowered through ownership and whose only benefit is a salary at the end of the week or month. In addition, it is long overdue to seriously consider imposing a withholding tax on repatriated profits that are earned here. Otherwise, the investor benefits both ways, at our expense.
Just as we openly welcome foreign investors here, we should consider what kind of concessions would enhance our own citizens' chances for success, and we should grant them to those Bahamian enterprises that satisfy certain threshold parameters.
The long-term development needs of our country
It becomes increasingly obvious and immediately important that we need to have a long-term plan for our country. It is imprudent for successive governments to approach governance of a small country such as ours without more clearly defined and generally agreed upon approaches to national goals and objectives, such as what we want The Bahamas to be and a time frame for achieving those objectives. It is virtually impossible to grow our country in the short term without a clearly defined long-term horizon as to the nature of investments that will benefit our country.
Every Bahamian is an investor
We often hear about the plethora of consultants who are constantly hired by the government, often where there are qualified Bahamians to perform contracted assignments. We need a renewed commitment to Bahamianization regarding consultants engaged by the government. Bahamians are alienated and disconnected from their government for several legitimate reasons, one of which is the absence of a deliberate determination to ensure that, wherever possible, Bahamians are provided the first opportunity to participate in the engagements that successive governments hasten to distribute to foreign consultants - another symptom of a nation for sale.
Furthermore, if the government is thinking about privatizing our national assets, Bahamians should be afforded the first opportunity to invest in such privatization exercises, and be seriously considered for the opportunities that we love to bestow on foreigners - yet another clear example of selling our patrimony.
Therefore, when foreign investors come knocking at our doors, an enlightened and progressive government would advise that such investors are expected to either (1) find Bahamian business partners with whom to invest or (2) offer shares in their enterprises to the Bahamian public, or even better, both of the above. Other countries do it. Why shouldn't we?
Conclusion
The time has come for our political leaders to understand that they will be judged not only by the jobs that they create, but now also by the Bahamian owners in our economy who they facilitate. Bahamians are tired of successive governments giving away our land and economic opportunities to foreigners, at our expense. If we do not radically alter our thinking about ownership and greater participation in our economy, we will be thrown back into a new form of slavery, once again being nothing more than servile workers whose patrimony has been pillaged and whose bodies and minds have been enslaved.
Properly formulated and adeptly executed, Christie's legacy could entail an administration whose primary objective is one of Bahamian economic empowerment. It is now time for a reversal of a policy, which for too long has had at its core a subliminal message that we are a nation for sale. It is now time for the establishment of an economic culture that is inclusive and beneficial to all who call The Bahamas home and who wish to build our nation for generations yet unborn.
o Philip C. Galanis is the managing partner of HLB Galanis & Co., Chartered Accountants, Forensic & Litigation Support Services. He served 15 years in Parliament. Please send your comments to pgalanis@gmail.com

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News Article

October 04, 2013
20-30 jobs at 'jam-packed' Atlantis gaming facility

The Atlantis Resort officially opened its nearly 7,000-square-foot Cantor Gaming Race and Sports Book facility yesterday, which will create 20 to 30 jobs and boost gaming revenue.
In the new state-of-the art 6,860-square-foot facility, patrons will be able to wager using Cantor Gaming's mobile sports wagering application on their Apple or Android device, or on their wireless enabled personal computing devices, including tablets and smartphones, with Cantor Gaming's Wi-Fi enabled sports wagering solution.
During yesterday's brief ribbon cutting ceremony, Atlantis President and Managing Director George Markantonis said the resort is already benefitting from the new facility, as it is reportedly "jam packed" on the weekends.
"Right now, we have people sitting on the floors. So we are going to have to bring more lounge and sofa seating. To be honest, we weren't expecting the crowds that we have been getting on the weekends but the beautiful thing is that we have been having to add staff to keep up with the volume," he said to Guardian Business.
"It has generated jobs. We put this bar in, and it is doing huge numbers now. People like to have a drink while they are watching sports. Overall, this whole racing sports facility will be adding 20-30 jobs. The peak season for sports is September 1 through February 28."
After meeting with several sports book operators, Markantonis said Cantor Gaming stood out as the obvious choice for Atlantis to partner with, having several major operations under their belt in gaming powerhouses like Las Vegas. The Cantor Gaming facility marks the brand's first international racing sports location.
"We had a sports book before but frankly, it's like chalk and cheese. That was a dump in comparison to what we have now. They paid for the sports book. They showed a commitment not only to The Bahamas, but also to Atlantis because they wanted to be affiliated with this brand," according to Markantonis.
As sports wagering continues to show significant growth, Cantor Gaming President and CEO Lee Amatis said he saw the opportunity to deploy its mobile technology at the Atlantis Resort.
"Sports wagering is very popular. Having to be able to come this close to The Bahamas to be able to do it, we think it's a fantastic idea. I think we feel comfortable in the fact that we think that the numbers can be significant," he said to Guardian Business.
"It does require a fair amount of risk management because people can win in that regard so you have to be able to do a broader risk management program, which is what Cantor does."
To date, Cantor Gaming has invested $5 million to get the new Race and Sports Book facility at Atlantis up and running. However, he is confident that as business expands, the level of investment will increase.
"Then, there's the investment of mobile technology, which requires servers to be placed on the property. As it expands, it will be hundreds of thousands more dollars. It's an easy investment for us because we know it's going to be popular and we know it's going to create jobs and a lot of interest. So it's very exciting, Amatis explained.
Gaming Board Chairman Dr. Andre Rollins, who also brought remarks at Thursday's opening, said that with a facility like this, The Bahamas could position itself to benefit from the multi-billion-dollar industry.
"It accounts for $300 billion in gaming revenue in the United States of America. Ninety nine percent of that is done outside of the regulated entities so you have a large black market for gaming in the United States," he said.
"The Bahamas could well position itself to assist our neighbors in having a well-policed gaming regime that would allow us to take advantage of all that money that is in the black market."
"I think Cantor Gaming in partnership with the Atlantis casino is definitely on the verge of taking advantage of the huge promise that sports wagering presents."

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News Article

September 16, 2011
Saunders: Bahamians must expand horizons

Young people in The Bahamas must hold their heads high and expand their horizons if they want to survive in difficult financial times, said Donald Saunders, the Deputy Secretary General, attorney and former FNM candidate.
He felt the recent City Market closures was an example of why Bahamians should educate themselves, remain flexible and always be on the look out for new and unusual opportunities.
"Yes, the country, along with most of the world, is suffering to some extent," the told Guardian Business.
"But this is an opportunity to achieve better skills and look to jobs of the future.  I think we really need to train Bahamians in new areas.
"People should be prepared to retool themselves from an educational or training perspective."
Saunders said Bahamians often focus on the core industries, including tourism and financial services.
But technology, farming and other less conventional professions must also be considered.
Although he admitted the economy was undergoing difficult times, Saunders added that the government was doing a reasonable job keeping employment at an acceptable level.
He pointed to various programs and projects supported by the government, which have provided thousands of opportunities for Bahamians.
Baha Mar, for example, the multi-billion-dollar development in Cable Beach, has so far employed more than 1,000 locals.
"We talk about the Chinese and other foreigners," he said, "but we should take the opportunity to ensure we have Bahamians employed at these facilities and [are] really learning from these foreign workers so we don't have to depend on them as much.  Upgrading your skills is very important."
Saunders felt Atlantis would continue to generate jobs through upcoming projects and repairs to the site.
Work being done to the magistrate court building and the supreme court in downtown Nassau, along with the current road works project, are also keeping Bahamians employed.
But in particular, Saunders highlighted the importance of the Job Readiness and Training Initiative, which Hubert Ingraham, the Prime Minister, kicked off this month.  Hundreds of Bahamians were inducted into the program as the first class - 400 participants from New Providence, and 240 from Grand Bahama.
The $25 million program includes 52 weeks of job placement and two weeks of orientation.  Thousands are expected to go through the initiative over the next several years.
"When the economy does take a turn for the better, they will be in a position to take full advantage of that," Saunders explained.  "I do think we have to encourage young people to look at new areas of employment."
And despite the hard times, he pointed out that the government, unlike other countries in the region, has not cut any essential services.
"As a young Bahamian in the professional world, and especially as an attorney for major bank institutions, I often see the affects of the downturn on the economy and general public. In my view, the government is doing a fairly good job in how it is dealing with the economy and how they are sustaining it," he said.

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News Article

April 27, 2013
Island Luck could let go 25 percent of staff

Twenty-five percent of Island Luck's workforce, particularly on the Family Islands, could be let go as early as next week, CEO of Island Luck Sebas Bastian revealed yesterday.
Island Luck employs more than 500 people, according to Bastian.
As reported by The Nassau Guardian yesterday, layoffs are looming at web shops as business has slowed to a trickle in the months since the failed January 28 gambling referendum.
Many patrons are reportedly staying away for fear they could be caught in a raid.
"You could land a 747 jet inside a web shop right now and no one would get killed. That's just how slow the web shop business is," said Bastian before joining radio talk show host Darold Miller on Guardian Radio 96.9 FM.
"Unfortunately, we may have to lay off [people] if it continues like this, and...we need the government to taken action on this issue.
"Address it and bring it to some closure because with all these high school graduates that are coming out of school come summer, [combined] with the unemployed and now a combination of web shop layoffs, it just seems that we are going nowhere fast.
"And that is just too many people without jobs."
Bastian said on Thursday that sales have been "at an all time low" in the last two months.
The fate of web shops and their staff remains uncertain as a legal challenge remains tied up in the Court of Appeal.
Bastian is just one of several web shop owners fighting to continue normal operations.
The developments came after a majority of people who voted in the referendum said no to the regularization and taxation of web shop gaming and the establishment of a national lottery.
Less than 50 percent of the electorate voted, however.
On Monday, Commissioner of Police Ellison Greenslade warned people who are gambling in these establishments to stop as they could face prosecution.
Asked whether web shop owners were gearing up to take another public stance, Bastian said, "Yes. We have nothing else to lose."
"The gloves are off and we have to do what it takes to make it right on behalf of The Bahamas, not just us," he said.
"It's about time in 2013 that we are not discriminated on in our own country. I mean, what we want is ownership. We want participation and we deserve it.
"We are not asking for anything that is not awarded to every other native in other countries."
Web shops owners pointed out the significant contributions to culture, sports and education during their Vote Yes campaign.
Bastian said yesterday Island Luck continues to donate and provide scholarships on a discretionary basis, but its contributions have slowed down because the company is not in the same financial position.
As fears grow over possible layoffs, web shop operators are outraged that the government has drafted a bill that would allow holders of casino licenses to establish mobile gaming operations.
As revealed by Guardian Business yesterday, mobile gaming is poised to enter the Bahamian market sooner than expected.
According to a release from Cantor Gaming, Atlantis' new casino partner, the technology will be unleashed on Monday.
Bastian said the mega resort is vying to become the new web shop in town.
"If the government is going to do it for Atlantis, do it for Bahamians," he said.
"If they're not going to do it for Atlantis then we can see why they won't do it for Bahamians. All we want is to be treated fairly in our own country. We're not looking for any handouts or favors; we just want what they get."
The substantive case involving Percy Web Cafe, Island Luck, FML Group of Companies, Asue Draw, Whatfall, Chances and Paradise Games is expected to be heard on May 24.

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