The Bahamas is a country in the Caribbean that has legalised gambling. In total it has three states with gambling facilities. These states have five legal gambling facilities available, Casino, Bingo, Poker, Sports betting, and Lottery. The largest gambling city in the Bahamas is Nassau, New Providence with three gambling facilities, 240 tables games, 2,350 slot, gaming, and video poker machines. Baha Mar Casino located at the Grand Hyatt in Nassau is the largest casino in the entire. Baha Mar Casino has 150 table games, 1,500 gaming and video poker machines.
Gambling was first legalized in this part of the world in 1969. Since then, gambling became a significant part of the country’s tourism industry. However, the casinos are open only to foreigners. It is observed that gambling is prevalent among locals but can only be done illegally.
In 1901, the Lotteries Prohibition Act was enacted. This Act established that it is illegal to participate in all lotteries and gambling activities. Nevertheless, during the American Prohibition Era in the 1920’s brick and mortar casinos began to operate illegally. These brick and mortar casinos comprised the Bahamian Club in 1920 and the Cat Cay Club in 1924. In 1930, the law was amended which provided the Governor-in-Council with authority to relieve certain bodies or persons from exclusion through the issuance of Certificates of Exemption. However, this signalled the beginning of a regulated Gaming Industry in the Bahamas.
A commission was set up in 1967 by the then Governor to investigate into Casino gambling. This led to the formation of the Lotteries and Gaming Act of 1969. The 1969 Act led to the establishment of the Gaming Board for the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.
The Gaming Board thereby became a body corporate, with continuous succession and a Common Seal. The essence of launching the Gaming Board was to regulate casino gambling within the country by keeping under examination the location, character, and extent of gambling facilities which were being provided for on the premises of the licenses under the 1969 Act were issued; and to carry out several other regulatory roles as assigned thereunder. However, since its amendment, the 1969 Act has occasionally been amended to provide for added measures and requirements, as well as to increase the scope of actions authorised by a gambling license, which include sports bettings and pari-mutuel wagering.
As a result of the emergence of modern technology, there arose a great need to revise the Gaming Act of 1969. In 2014, there was the passing of new gaming legislation: The Gaming Act, The Gaming Regulations, and the Gaming House Operator Regulations, all these came into place to conform gambling to international standards by setting stringent qualifications and requirements for participation in gambling. Aside from putting in place strict regulations, it also legitimised the previously unregulated gambling industry informally called “Web Shops” to bring them into the regulated gambling environment. Therefore, the Gaming Act of 1969 was repealed by the execution of the 2014 legislative instruments. Nevertheless, the 2014 Gaming Act allowed for the continuation of the Gaming Board as it operated under the 1969 Gaming Act.
On paper, gambling laws in the Bahamas seem to be very strict. Though in practice, it doesn’t work that way. The Bahamas Gaming Board does not issue licenses to online gambling operators, and residents of Bahamas are strictly prohibited from playing online betting. More so, Bahamians are not allowed to gamble at casinos. As the 2013 referendum aiming to establish a national lottery was rejected, there are currently no legal options for Bahamian residents to participate in lottery games, both online or offline. Only tourists can legally play gambling in the Bahamas. However, recently some illegal “web shops” and card rooms have appeared, and the gambling regulators turn a blind eye. Notwithstanding these stringent gambling laws, citizens are actively participating in online gambling, such as casinos, poker rooms, and bookmakers without standing the chance of punishment from the authorities. The gambler must be 18 years of age to place bets in the Bahamas.
Nevertheless, access to foreign lottery websites by Bahamians is not blocked, and many foreign online lotteries and lottery agents allow Bahamians to purchase lottery tickets online. Though there had been a widespread demand to amend the current gambling laws to permit residents; nothing has been done to it presently.
Who Regulates the Bahamas’ Gaming Industry? The Bahamas Gaming Board for the Commonwealth, which was established in August 1969 by the Lotteries and Gaming Act of 1969, regulates the Bahamas’ Gaming Industry. The essence of launching the Gaming Board was to control casino gambling within the country by keeping under examination the location, character, and extent of gambling facilities which were being provided for on the premises of the licenses under the 1969 Act were issued; and to perform such other regulatory functions as mandated thereunder.
Winnings from gambling are not taxable in the Bahamas. The Bahamian tax laws do not require gamblers to pay taxes on winnings from gambling. Instead, Bahamas collect tax revenues from the casinos. Tax revenues from casinos account for a large portion of the government’s internal revenue. This tax revenue would increase by permitting online gambling sites to operate here. Though, most of the residents are speculating that it is just a matter of time before the Bahamas makes drastic changes to their outdated policies.
How is gambling perceived in the Bahamas?
Attitudes of authorities
In general, authorities are favourably disposed towards gambling. Offline gambling is a fully legalised activity in the Bahamas, though for tourists and not residents. And online gaming, though illegal for both residents and tourists, has not been sanctioned by the government. Revenues from gambling come from the five million tourists that flood the country on an annual basis. In 2013, the chairman of the Bahamian Gaming Board stated that the $145 million realised by the Bahamas in gambling revenues is “stagnant”. He, however, believed that if the Bahamas makes significant changes to its current gambling regulations, it could ultimately become a force in the gaming industry. As of this writing, there are no changes on the immediate horizon.
View of the society in general
Some residents are very displeased with the fact that Bahamians are not allowed to gamble in casinos. Bahamians love gambling, this is seen in their broad move towards online gaming.
Gambling is very safe in the Bahamas for tourists only and not for residents, fully legalised by the authorities of the country. Gambling is one of the most important activities for a number of visitors to the Bahamas. The legal backing gambling has from the governing bodies makes it a very safe activity for interested players.
Online gambling is illegal in the Bahamas for both residents and foreigners. Currently, there is no Bahamas-based online casino. Residents are prohibited from accessing foreign online gambling platforms and sports betting sites either. However, such online gambling platforms are not blocked, and players are not prosecuted.
Just recently, the law permitted sports betting in the “foreigners only” casinos
There are currently five casinos in operation within The Bahamas. They are:
- The Casino at Emerald Bay: This operates 24 hours a day and offers 65 gaming machines and eight table games (blackjack, craps, roulette).
- Isle of Capri: It operates every day from 10 am to 5 am. Isle of Capri offers a large gaming space – about 20,000 sq. Ft. It has about 33 table games and 350 gaming machines. A sports book and race book are also available.
- Atlantis at Paradise Island Resort and Casino: It operates 24 hours daily and has a massive gaming space of 100,000 sq. Ft. It contains 926 gaming machines, which include video poker and anchor’s Wheel of Gold. It also features 97 table games, which include Blackjack, Caribbean Stud Poker, 3 Card Poker, American Roulette, Baccarat, Craps, French Roulette, Let It Ride and Mini-Baccarat. It also offers free gaming lessons for all table games are provided.
- Breezes Bahamas Resort: This casino offers 60 gaming machines.
- Wyndham Nassau Resort & Crystal Palace Casino: The casino operates its slot machines 24 hours daily, though table games are available from 10 am to 4 am daily. Wyndham Nassau offers 35,000 square feet of gaming space with 500 gaming machines and 43 table games (Pai Gow Poker, Craps, Baccarat, Let It Ride, Blackjack, and Roulette). Sports Betting facilities are also available here.
The Bahamas is famous for its gambling activities in the world. We rate the Bahamas a 3 out of 5. The reason for this is because gambling has been taken as a legal business for tourists in Bahamas and winnings from gambling are not taxed. More so, online gambling activities have been overlooked by the government.