Officials in the Bahamas have approved a gaming licence for the Baha Mar casino resort (pictured), 17 days before its scheduled phase-one soft opening on April 21, reported The Tribune newspaper.
It said the gaming permit application was submitted by Sky Warrior Bahamas Ltd, described in the report as a subsidiary of privately-held Hong Kong conglomerate Chow Tai Fook Enterprises Ltd (CTFE).
CTFE – an investor in casino resorts in Macau, Australia and Vietnam – confirmed in December that it had signed an agreement to own and operate Baha Mar, a stalled casino resort project in the Caribbean archipelago.
CTFE is not itself a casino operator, but in the case of the Australia project, in Brisbane, has chosen to be a partner of Australian casino operator The Star Entertainment Group Ltd. The Tribune report on the Baha Mar casino licence did not mention any individuals by name or give details of the professional experience of those that would be managing the gaming on behalf of the permit holder.
The newspaper said Obie Wilchcombe, the Bahamas’ tourism minister, had confirmed on Tuesday the issuing of the permit, and indirectly cited him saying the licence and what the news outlet reported as “associated certificates of suitability” were granted after a “comprehensive probity investigation”, as required by the country’s Gaming Act, and on the recommendation of the island nation’s gaming board.
The outlet directly quoted the minister as stating: “Having thoroughly reviewed these recommendations, as well as the investigation report and all other documentation pertaining to the application, I have reached the conclusion that the application, the applicant and its material stakeholders have all met the qualification requirements for licensing set forth in the Act…”
Mr Wilchcombe reportedly added: “The Gaming Board and its staff will continue to work with the applicant to ensure that the prevailing pre-opening requirements leading up to the soft opening of the Baha Mar Casino on April 21, 2017, are duly met.”
The newspaper said that the previous week, Graeme Davis, described as president of CTFE’s Bahamian subsidiary, had described as “baseless” and “untrue”, allegations contained in an open letter to the gaming board, which accused the resort’s buyer of being allegedly associated with “international crime” organisations through its link to what the newspaper termed “a Macau gaming group”.
Henry Cheng Kar Shun, chairman of CTFE, has been a non-executive director of Macau casino operator SJM Holdings Ltd since 2013. Prior to that, his late father Cheng Yu Tung had been a long-standing business associate of SJM Holdings’ founder, Stanley Ho Hung Sun.
CTFE had previously stated via the Bahamian media – prior to acquiring Baha Mar – that under its stewardship the scheme would have “no affiliation” with SJM Holdings.
In Vietnam, a unit of CTFE is pursuing a casino project in partnership with Macau VIP junket investor Suncity Group, and Vietnam-based asset management firm VinaCapital Group.
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