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Bahamas Online Casinos

BahamasSituated between the coast of Florida, Cuba, and Hispaniola, the island nation of the Bahamas is a former English colony that is now an independent British Commonwealth. The small country is now a haven for tourists, which has brought significant wealth to the 300,000 or so citizens who live there.

The Bahamas are also known for gambling, as the islands have hosted casinos since 1969 – a move that played a big part in turning the nation into a major tourism destination (though we must admit that the excellent weather and beautiful beaches didn’t hurt, either). But as in several other jurisdictions around the world, locals are barred in these “foreigner-only” resorts. Meanwhile, illegal operations flourish and are used by many in the country, with a recent attempt to regulate and tax the industry being rejected by the nation’s populous.

Gaming Industry for Tourists Only

Ever since the 1920s, there has been a zone of the Bahamas that has been permitted to offer casino gambling at hotels. There were always general bans on gaming, but restrictions on who could play at facilities like the Bahamian Club were enough to allow some of these venues to stay open, at least seasonally.

In 1939, there was once again a complete legal ban on such locations, but with a couple small casinos operating with tacit government approval, it was clear that either the laws had to change, or officials would have to step in and shut down even these limited operations. Officials chose the first path, deciding to allow the government to exempt any person or entity from the ban if it wished to do so. That led to a licensing program, and several reputable owners were thus brought into the newly legal gaming industry.

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One of the major qualifications of this effort, however, was the exclusion of most locals from playing in the casinos. While tourists were welcome to gamble their money away, those from the Bahamas or working and residing in the country could not (a clause which notably allowed retirees to enjoy the resorts as well). In addition, since the government had no real interest in a large-scale betting industry, they refused to allow more licenses after the first round of exemptions.

That policy changed in the 1960s. With many developers interested in building on Grand Bahama and Paradise Island, lawmakers were able to pass laws over strong religious opposition in 1969, allowing for the regulation and taxation of casinos. Today, tourists and gamblers enjoy playing at the Atlantis Resort at Paradise Island, the Baha Mar, and the Memories Grand Bahama Beach Resort. However, the old restrictions are still in place: if you live and work here, or were born in the country, you can’t actually place any bets.

That doesn’t for a single second suggest that Bahamans aren’t actually gambling a whole lot, however. There are numerous locations known as “web shops” where individuals can walk in and place bets on American lotteries, for instance, and there has been little effort to actually crack down on the practice.

In January 2013, the country held a referendum asking voters about two proposals to clarify this situation. The first question was whether they would support the regulation and taxation of the web shops, bringing them out of the shadows and under government supervision. A second question asked what if they would support the establishment of a National Lottery in the country, either in conjunction with or as an alternative to the web shops.

As has long been the case here, there was significant religious opposition to the legalization of these forms of gambling, and that seems to have won the day. Over 80,000 votes were cast on both questions, and in both cases, about 60% of voters came down against the proposals. The result is that many people here are still playing in these illegal locations, but no oversight exists for them.

Online Play Unsanctioned, But Available

Given the general anti-gambling sentiment in government (at least in terms of what residents are allowed to enjoy), it should come as little surprise that there are no licenses available for online casinos in the Bahamas. While the Caribbean does have other jurisdictions where Internet gaming companies are based out of, this is not one of them – and such sites are not permitted to operate here.

That said, we’ve already talked about how lax enforcement of these laws can be, and this seems to be the case over the Internet as well. Just as the web shops operate in plain sight, many Bahamans choose to make bets at online casino sites, sports books, and other operations while facing no consequences or real threat of seeing the sites shut down. Many operators – at least those who don’t restrict themselves to regulated markets – clearly feel similarly, as there is an abundance of sites for players to choose from.

Given the relative openness of this market, there are a number of different software providers that offer their games to players here. If you’re connecting to an Internet casino from the Bahamas, you’ll see all of the following developers represented among the sites here:

Status Quo Likely to be Maintained in Near Future

There is little to say about what’s coming for the future of the gaming industry in the Bahamas. Little has changed in the last few decades, and with the recent referendums showing very strong opposition to the idea of regulating other aspects of the industry, it’s hard to imagine any sweeping changes coming anytime soon.

There are a few issues that need to be addressed, as there are anywhere. The future of Baha Mar is uncertain, with issues between the developers of the resort putting the facility into bankruptcy court. Everyone involved agrees that the Baha Mar is a wondrous resort in a great location, but between the various Chinese, Swiss, and other developers and executives involved in the project, there has been plenty of blame to throw around as to why the project hasn’t quite worked out yet.

But overall, the Bahamas remain a very attractive destination for tourists, which mean that the limited amount of gambling allowed by the government will continue to bring in significant revenues for the foreseeable future. At the same time, it is hard to imagine that any further expansion will take place: there’s just too much organized opposition to the idea to let a real movement take hold, meaning that illegal facilities will remain the go-to option for local gamblers.

Online gaming is also unlikely to receive a hard look from legislators in the country. While it’s certainly possible that this situation could change someday, we don’t expect to see regulated Internet gambling take hold here in a time frame that we can project. On the bright side, the status quo should be maintained, meaning that players are unlikely to face any government pushback in either the brick-and-mortar or Internet gaming sectors, and that the unsanctioned games should continue unabated.

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