– opens doors after five years of being denied approval to operate
By Navendra Seoraj
AFTER more than four years of being denied the opportunity to open its doors, the US$16 million Carnival Casino has been given the “green light” by the Gaming Authority of Guyana to commence operations, thus paving the way for the creation of more than 300 direct jobs.
Carnival Casino, which is part of the Sleepin Hotel Complex, was scheduled to open simultaneously with the accommodation aspect of the facility four years ago, but multiple applications to the Gaming Authority were rejected.
“Well, the casino was supposed to open in 2016… The first application was sent in 2015, and that was denied. And we applied again in 2017, and it was denied again. And now we apply under the new Board and got through,” said owner of the Sleepin Group, Clifton Bacchus during an interview with the Guyana Chronicle on Tuesday.
Chairman of the Gaming Authority of Guyana, Manniram Prashad told this publication that the Authority’s Board of Directors reviewed the new application recently, and found that the company’s financials and plans were in order, so there was no reason to deny approval.
The prior applications would have cost Bacchus $18 million, but this was only a microcosm of the unwarranted expenses he’d incurred, the businessman told this publication.
“The total investment was about US$15 million, but after the almost five-year time span, it took us up to another million, because we had to send the machines back and then bring it back… We also had to redo the place, because it was closed for five years… Remember, we also had the interest to pay, and everything else took up the investment,” Bacchus lamented.
Despite those ‘setbacks’, the businessman was elated that his perseverance paid off, and he could finally open his establishment, which, he foresees, will remain competitive, even amidst increasing proposals from key players in the international hotel industry to enter Guyana.
His intention is to employ mainly Guyanese. And, although the facility has the capacity to employ over 300 persons, Bacchus said he will be employing 150 for now, because of the pervasive novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
“We are only employing 150 persons for now, because of the social distancing and so, and because you have to close at a certain time,” said the proprietor.
The application of COVID-19 guidelines will, however, not just be restricted to the level of employment, but will also apply to all aspects of the casino’s operations.
The facility has live games, machine games, food and every possible feature of any international casino. Those activities will be managed by competent employees, who have been trained by experts in the field.
“Everybody will be fully trained; we will continuously train our employees to ensure that they are the best… So, we were anxious, but now a burden is off my shoulders, and we could start our operations and hopefully recover the investment over a period of time,” Bacchus said.
It was reported recently that based on available statistics, over 3,000 persons are expected to gain employment next year when mega hoteliers ‘land’ their multimillion-dollar investments in Guyana.
Several investors have already acquired private land to kick-start their investments. The Guyana Chronicle understands that 10 developers have acquired such land, and will start construction in the coming year.
While the names of those investors were not released, the Guyana Chronicle had reported that a business-friendly climate, supplemented by the anticipated economic ascension is being credited for the attraction of major players in the hotel industry, such as Sheraton, The Element, Delta Marriott, Best Western Hotels and Resorts, the H-Tower Luxury Hotel, the Hyatt Hotels Corporation, the Radisson Hotels, and the Hilton Hotels and Resorts, among others.
These potential investments are seen as timely, because Guyana, which sits on the edge of South America and has a population of about 750,000 people, is expected to ‘boom’ with its new-found oil wealth, which is expected to drive infrastructural development and other sectoral advancements.
According to a study by Oxford Economics, hotels are extraordinary job creators in communities all across the nation. In addition to offering numerous entry-level positions, hotels also provide stepping stones for employees to quickly move up within the organisation.
The same study found that a typical hotel with 100 occupied rooms per night supports 230 local jobs every year.
And the nation’s hotel and lodging industry brings other important benefits to local communities. These businesses are a cornerstone for local economic activity, providing increased tax revenue, capital investment, tourism-related development and promotion, civic leadership, charitable contributions and sponsorship.