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Even though it’s an enticing place for punters to visit, the current lax state in the Bahamas didn’t happen overnight. In the Caribbean, no country’s casino industry has survived a bigger rollercoaster ride than the Bahamas. The islands were originally a haven for bootleggers in the 1920’s, and they quickly became ground zero for gambling in the Caribbean. Ever since Castro’s revolution shut down Cuba’s casinos, operators have had their sights set on the Bahamas. Despite being an intriguing proposition, the industry was mainly kept illegal by aggressive religious organizations.
This oppression set the stage for a few elite hotels to run casinos alongside a thriving underground numbers industry. Locals weren’t allowed to wager in the few legal casinos, which set the stage for a thriving black market. Thanks to this segregation, the Bahamas’ gaming industry was split into two sections: tourists playing at casinos and locals betting illegal numbers. While this division still exists, one unexpected variable changed everything. The internet wasn’t around when the 1969 Lotteries & Gaming Act was established, and this lack of foresight set the stage for a bonanza. During the early 2000’s, dozens of international gaming sites set up shop in the Bahamas.
When gaming houses were legalized in 2014, the main population finally had access to regulated gambling. By allowing users to access iGaming sites, these internet cafes managed to bridge the gap. Locals were delighted to be included, which led to 263 gaming houses opening up across the country. At their height they employed 2,753 people and served 400,000 locals. After enduring multiple draconian tax heights, these gaming houses have finally reached a truce with the Bahamian government. For now the gaming houses can legally run alongside resort casinos, so now’s the time for punters to visit.
To showcase what’s available, we compiled a list of the most popular places to gamble in the Bahamas. These venues range from extravagant hotels to tolerated underground operations. While foreigners can easily access the higher end options, locals are still mostly restricted to two entries on this list. The Bahamas has one of the most curious gaming industries in the world, so dive into the details to discover your options when visiting!
Option #1: Casinos – Even though they have always had a tumultuous relationship with the government, casinos are part of the Bahamian culture. Throughout the 20thcentury, various casinos have managed to stay open. These were trying times, since the government was under constant assault from the church to shut the casinos down. Fortunately, things have changed. Faced with a growing amount of their congregation that wagers, many churches have eased the tone. This unexpected lenience has allowed the islands’ legal industries to continue operating in peace.
Now that casinos have become synonymous with tourism, the industry is booming. The Bahamas is home to five legal casinos, and they provide a staggering amount of options. In total, punters can pick between 270 table games and 2,460 pokies machines. Boasting 3 casinos, Nassau is the gambling capital of the Bahamas. Their largest venue is the Baha Mar Casino at Grand Hyatt, which offers 150 table games and 1,500 pokies machines. This city provides all of the amenities punters love, so come test the odds in paradise!
Option #2: Gaming Houses – In many ways, these venues are the heart of the Bahamian gaming industry. By providing safe areas for locals to wager, gaming houses revolutionized gambling in the Bahamas. Currently 7 operators are licensed to operate gaming houses; Chances, Island Luck, Paradise, UG, Percy and A Sure Win. On top of offering access to online casino games, these establishments offer over the counter lottery tickets. The regulation is constantly changing, which has caused many of these companies to unite against the government. Gaming houses unintentionally embody equality in the Bahamas, so visit one to experience the essence of the Bahamian gaming!
Option #3: Numbers – Even though this industry is completely illegal, ever since the 1800’s it has been woven into the fabric of Bahamian culture. Thanks to the ban locals had to endure from the few legal casinos, illicit numbers operators quickly filled the void. Numbers allows the average Bahamian to wager with extremely small sums of money and get instant credit from their bookies. This ease of use was extremely appealing to poorer communities, and numbers thrived throughout the islands. Today hundreds of illegal number houses cater to tens of thousands of eager clients. These are the remnants of prohibition, and they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
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