Caribbean casino gambling has come a long way since 20 years ago when probably the only International style casino was Paradise Island Bahamas. Looking at the Caribbean gaming industry in 2013 we see many large scale resorts in the Caribbean having something for the entire family to do in addition to gambling. Still, many Caribbean casinos consist of just 3 or 4 table games and 15-30 slot machines.
Dominican Republic, Bahamas and Puerto Rico casinos
At our last count there were 166 casinos in the Caribbean with the country of Dominican Republic on the island of Hispaniola having by far the most casinos with 58 in its borders. Coming in second place in terms of numbers of casinos is Puerto Rico with 28 casinos. If we look at the per capita figures (Puerto Rico only has a third of the population of the D.R.), Puerto Rico has more casinos per individual citizen.
Major large scale activity between October 2013 and October 2014 will take place in the Bahamas. There has not been much activity in the casino industry in the Bahamas since the Royal Oasis Resort in Freeport was destroyed by two hurricanes in 2005. Now we have the $4 billion Baha Mar Resort with it's casino and hotel - this property is nearly built and ready to open on the main Island of New Providence in mid 2014. Most of the investment in the Baha Mar Resort was made by the Chinese Government controlled China State Construction Engineering Corporation and as a result it looks like Nassau will have the first ever direct flights from Asia coming to the region.
Also in the Bahamas the South Ocean Golf & Beach Resort looks like it will finally host a casino starting in early 2014 after it gained Government approval. Freeport has been limping on with just the casino at Our Lucaya. Operators of the Our Lucaya Casino, Treasure Bay Corp, have announced they will cease managing the casino on October 31st 2013 and the Bahamian Government are to announce new casino operators soon. Also at Our Lucaya the Government have announced there will be a casino at the new the 5 star all-inclusive 500-room Memories Resort which will open December 30th, 2013. Because of the increased uplift from air charter companies it is also likely that the Royal Oasis (destroyed by two hurricanes in 2005) will re-open and give Freeport 3 casinos.
Sports betting in the Caribbean
Restrictions on Sports betting in the USA along with the rapid expansion in the numbers and sizes of casinos in the Caribbean has resulted in many more mega sports books, likes you will find in the new Hard Rock Punta Cana (Dominican Republic) which has 5000 square feet and 86 state-of-the-art screens. Aruban casinos are the most popular destination (especially for North Americans) for those wishing to bet on sports. In Aruba, all casinos have sports betting. Many of the Aruban casinos are now turning their sports book facilities into just sport betting machines.
Largest in Caribbean: Cuba & Haiti
Cuba, the Caribbean’s largest country by population (11,249,000 is the July 2013 UN estimate) and land mass has no casinos even though there has been strong speculation in recent years that the glory days of the Mafia run style Havana casinos will soon return. During the evening of New Year’s Eve 1958 and morning of New Year’s Day 1959 the mob owned casinos were ransacked by mobs celebrating the flight from Cuba of the dictator Batista and Cuba has not seen casinos since.
The Caribbean's second most populous country is Haiti and it has also had mob influenced casinos over the years in which the dictators Papa Doc Duvalier and his son Baby Doc Duvalier were in power, but none of the casinos survived the devastating earthquake of 2010. Since the earthquake the Ukrainian owned Bagheera casino has opened in the fashionable Petion-Ville district of the capital where most of the casinos were before the disaster. A major re-investment is underway in Haiti and there are major plans with hundreds of millions of dollars earmarked for large scale hotels and resorts, probably with casinos, coming in the next 2 years. One will include a 173-room Marriott property in Port-au-Prince, Royal Oasis Occidental Petion-Ville and Best Western Premier Petion-Ville. A $400 million dollar 5 star Serenity Aqua Resorts is due to open within the year and is to include one of the best casinos in the region.
Making up the other half of the island of Hispaniola with Haiti is the Dominican Republic, which is the third most populous country in the Caribbean with well over 10 million citizens and with new casinos opening nearly every other month. The major resort complexes that have international style casino gambling can be found in Santo Domingo, Punta Cana and Playa Dorada with 7 casinos in the northern port of Puerto Plata. Only a few years ago no serious players and certainly no high rollers would entertain playing high stakes in a casino here but times have changed. Major European casino groups now have opened excellent multiple location casinos such as Groupo Comar, which has amassed 15 casino resorts, or Spanish group Cirsa who first brought international style casinos to Santo Domingo in the 1980’s and also have 118 casinos world-wide. Probably the best and most established of the capital Santo Domingo’s 14 casinos is the Jaragua, but now the Hard Rock International Group have opened the Hard Rock Punta Cana and this is easily the biggest and best, not only in the Dominican Republic but also one of the finest in the Caribbean having 40 table games, 400 slots and a 5000 square feet sports book.
Above we have covered three counties that make up 70% of the Caribbean’s population but in the other 30% there are over 100 casinos. Outside of the Bahamas it was always established that the only other Vegas type casino gambling one could find was in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico and large scale gambling here has steadily increased over the years with Puerto Rico's 30th casino expected to open soon. In July 2012 Hyatt announced that they will be building a new casino resort the Hyatt Place Bayamon & El Tropical Casino which is scheduled to open early 2014. Probably one of the most prestigious casinos in the Caribbean the Ritz-Carlton San Juan Hotel, Spa and Casino can be found in Coralina, and of course the granddaddy of them all the El San Juan Hotel & Casino.
ABC Islands - Casinos and Gambling
Just off the Latin American coast are the ABC islands, (Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao), which have always been popular with tourists from both North and South America. Although Bonaire has only two very small boutique casinos Aruba and Curacao have more casinos than any other country in the region, with the exceptions of Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, with each having 12 and 18 respectively. The famous stand-alone casino Alhambra casino which is managed by Divi Resorts, who have casinos in 3 other Caribbean countries, has recently undergone a very extensive renovation and is considered by some as Aruba’s best while in Curacao the Curacao Marriott Beach Resort and Emerald Casino is considered the finest. The latest casino that recently opened in Curacao is the Diamond Beach Casino. In the economic climate of the last few years many gaming experts consider there is a serious oversupply of casinos in the ABC islands and many are for sale.
St. Maarten has had a steady 13 casinos for many years now with two Italians owning four each and a Turk the other five. Princess casinos have 5 casinos on the island including what at one point was the largest in the Caribbean and is named the Princess Port de Plaisance Hotel & Casino. Princess is also probably the largest operator of casinos in the Caribbean and Central America and world-wide has 31 casinos.
Final locations and comments
All the other countries in the Caribbean that have legalized full casino licensing have no more than 5 mainly small casinos such as there are in Antigua. St. Lucia got its first ever casino in 2011 while in St. Vincent they closed the very classy Trump Privee casino, which was the only one on the island. Guadeloupe, Martinique, St. Kitts, U.S. Virgin Islands and the Turks and Caicos Islands all have between one and three small casinos. Trinidad has members clubs which technically are casinos but are only legal as private members clubs.
There are still countries in the Caribbean that do not allow casino gambling at all and these are the British territories of Cayman Islands, British Virgin Islands, Anguilla and Montserrat along with Grenada, Barbados and Dominica.
Horse betting on races is also quite prevalent in Caribbean and those interested could check out the various destinations where it is available. This could include Guadeloupe that offers horse tracks at Gosier, at the Hippodrome de Pointe a Pitre. Also, Jamaica offers horse tracks in Saint Catherine at Caymanas park while Martinique offers them in Lamentin at Hippodrome de Carrere Lamentin. Check here for our full update on Caribbean horse racing.
The poker craze has not missed out the Caribbean and now nearly all casinos have some kind of poker room and poker tournaments, with the Pokers Stars Caribbean Adventure held at the Atlantis one of the most established in the world. The first land based tournament was announced here by sunpoker.com, a site that offers online gaming also held the first annual "Caribbean Poker classic" no limit "Texas Hold'em tournament in the year 2005 but closed in the moment of time since November 5, 2012. The fifth stop of the World Poker Tour by ultimatebet.com was also organized in Aruba in 2004, quickly making it a popular destination. The tropical destination attracted both celebrities and players from countries including Bermuda, Brazil, Canada, China, the Cayman Islands, Costa Rica, England, Finland, France, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and the U.S. Click here Caribbean Poker for our poker guide.
Caribbean Lottery / Lotto
While Jamaica is against casino gaming, it may be willing to take a chance at the lotteries. This came through as a person from the National Council of Education minister put forth the idea that the $53 million required for revamping educational systems could be generated from here. The government has made changes in its lottery plan and a $15,000 threshold on lottery winnings has been set, before the 15% tax is applied.
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