Baha Mar resort to establish Bahamas as top gaming destination

After more than six years in the making, the $3.4bn Baha Mar casino development under construction on a 1,000-acre beachfront plot in the Bahamas capital city of Nassau is moving towards its scheduled completion. Officials have alerted the gaming industry the project is set to open in late-2014.

Baha Mar, the largest single-phase resort development in the history of the Caribbean, was first conceived in April 2005. Baha Mar Resorts Ltd. backed by the Izmirlian family, purchased the prime real estate at a heavily discounted price and was offered generous concessions, conditioned on meeting its benchmarks.

Failing to deliver the financial requirements by October 2006, the company unloaded a 43 percent stake to Harrah’s Entertainment, now Caesars. But Harrah’s pulled out of the joint venture in 2008 amidst the economic downturn, losing confidence after dealings over government land had taken much longer to organise than anticipated.

Two years later, Baha Mar was back in business as the Export-Import Bank of China agreed a $2.6bn long-term loan to bring the project to life. Under terms of the loan, China State Construction Engineering Corp., the largest construction firm in China, was given the contract and sent a large labour force to the Nassau City to finish the work.

“Baha Mar should be a milestone between mutually beneficial cooperation between China and the Bahamas,” explained Li Ruogu, Export-Import Bank of China President & Chairman. “China’s future is closely related to the rest of the world’s,” added Hu Dingxian, Chinese ambassador to the Bahamas, “China is committed to economic relationship and cooperation and mutual benefit.”

As well as the large presence of Chinese in the project, the change of events will also see the introduction of several US-based brands. The complex will house a refurbished Sheraton hotel, the down-sized Wyndam hotel, and three new hotels, a 700-room Hyatt, 300-room Morgans and 200-room Rosewood. Other planned amenities include a 50,000-sq-ft retail district, chef-branded restaurants, an 18-hole Jack Nicklaus signature golf course, as well as 50 timeshare units.

Yet to secure an operator, a casino featuring 9,000-sq-ft of gaming excitement will be the centrepiece of the resort. Set to rival the best gaming destinations in the world, the casino plans to launch with 1,500 slot machines and 150 table games and could become a further competitive threat to Atlantic City, just a two-hour plane ride.

“This is a unique market and Baha Mar will allow the Bahamas to grow its gaming by offering a true Las Vegas experience,” commented Uri Clinton, Baha Mar General Counsel, who said that by the time it is completed, the Caribbean country will have Nevada-style gaming regulations for sports wagering, interactive and mobile.

In keeping with the goal to create a dynamic resort experience that captures the spirit of the Bahamas, lush, natural landscapes will feature throughout the venue, with waterfalls, gardens and Caribbean-inspired architecture. The complex will encapsulate guests’ attention from the moment they arrive, being greeted by an expansive water boulevard and 50-ft circular waterfall.

“The world has never seen what we are about to create right here in the Bahamas,” said Sarkis Izmirlian, Baha Mar Chairman & CEO, “We’re marrying the excitement and true experience of Las Vegas with the soul, beauty and spirit of the Bahamas.”

A study completed by Oxford Economies forecasts that the project will attract up to 450,000 additional visitors in its first year of operation. With a projected cost of US$3.4bn, 45 percent of the country’s GDP, Baha Mar is set to contribute $14.8bn to the GDP over the next 20 years and generate $5.3bn tax revenue in the next 25 years.