Guyana Opens First Casino, But Locals Barred from Gambling
The Princess Hotel in Guyana officially opened the country's first casino last week, but because of a law passed in 2007, Guyanese residents are forbidden from playing there. The Gambling Prevention Act restricted Guyanese gambling after several religious leaders and politicians led an anti-gambling crusade. For now, the only people who can gamble at the casino's 300 slot machines and 11 gaming tables are international ecotourists and the many Brazilians the casino hopes will travel there to gamble.
The government decided to grant limited casino licenses to hotels with a minimum of 150 guest rooms as a way to accelerate the growth of the country's young tourism industry. Guyanese President Bharrat Jagdeo denounced the hypocrisy of opening a casino where only foreigners are welcome, saying that freedom of choice should outweigh antigambling concerns. “For me, this is something that I find distasteful. I believe that Guyanese should enjoy all of the choices in the country… our society is a moderate one…there was opposition, but we will give people choices,” Jagdeo said.
The Princess Hotel is owned by Turkish hotel group Princess Group, which owns 14 hotels internationally. The company, which bought the hotel for $15 million in 2008, is exploring legal loopholes that would allow Guyanese residents to gamble at the casino as long as they are guests of the hotel. In addition to slots and table games, the casino plans to host poker tournament satellites in the future.