Guardian Business Reporter
NASSAU, Bahamas -- Casinos in The Bahamas are reporting revenue declines in 2010 as steep as 18 percent in at least one case, Guardian Business has learned.
Of the three casinos in The Bahamas, Crystal Palace saw the highest revenue drop, down by 18.5 percent or $5 million from $27 million to $22 million, while Atlantis offered only that its “revenue was down a little under 2009” by 8 percent. Officials at Treasure Bay in Grand Bahama said it was still too early for them to give a year-on-year comparison, given it only gained control of the operations in late 2009.
However, like other casinos globally, revenue intake seems to have been affected by certain categories of visitors, with information pointing to the largest fall-off coming not from the high rollers at all -- but those visitors likely whiling away time in the casino.
“Spend for low-end players was down by 25 percent per trip [and] 10 percent for VIP segments, averaging to an 18.5 percent overall decline,” said a statement from Robert Sands, vice-president of governmental and external affairs for Baha Mar, which operates the Crystal Palace casino.
Those low-end players are often times lumped in the discretionary spend category that has been affected by the economic downturn. The falloff in that category has led to sluggish growth in visitor arrivals to tourism-dependent destinations like The Bahamas, and has seen casino chairs emptier than they would have been just three years earlier.
“Our casinos have faced the same world economies as any other,” senior deputy secretary of the Gaming Board Dennis Martin told Guardian Business on Wednesday. “We’ve all had some downturn and things are not as good as they would normally be.
“For instance, Crystal Palace has closed for a period of time [and] all that would have an effect on their gross takings and the rest of it.
“Indeed, they are all planning promotions for 2011 that would help lift sagging revenue. Atlantis locked itself in as the setting for international card tournaments like the annual PokerStars Caribbean Adventure last year and for the next two years to come.”
While it may not be able to attract the kind of high-level events like Atlantis, Treasure Bay is looking to roll out the red carpet to get more players at its tables during the first quarter of 2011.
“We have just dropped $28,000 in mail orders to customers inviting them to Grand Bahama,” said new general manager Craig S. Turner. “The incentives range from instant credit to two and three room nights to attract new and existing customers back. So we are waiting for that to take hold, based on the billing at the end of last year, we’re looking for a number of persons to be coming to the island between now and next month.”
Grand Bahama has been especially challenged with growing its air arrivals over the last two years, with most of its visitor arrival growth coming from cruise arrivals. While that segment is important, those visitors do not hold the key to boosting hotel occupancy and the associated spinoff business essential to the growth of that island’s economy.
Crystal Palace said it will maintain very aggressive incentives and rewards to attract profitable players, focusing primarily on free or discount airfare and free rooms as well.
“As a small casino, [Crystal Palace] is unable to provide the same level of complimentaries and cash back to the scale of the larger gaming companies,” Sands said. “Instead, we focus on soliciting trips from known profitable players who are looking for a smaller, more laid-back and intimate setting, where the service experience is more personalized.”