-owner optimistic of being granted licence
The Sleep-In Hotel chain in Guyana is set to introduce a third hotel, this one on Church Street, Queenstown at a cost of US$8M. It will feature 150 rooms when completed.
However, only a fraction of those rooms will be open in time for the 50th Jubilee celebrations this month. In addition, a casino is being built, as part of the hotel’s attraction.
For Sleep-In owner, Clifton Bacchus, however, he will be going ahead with construction of the Carnival Casino despite not having the requisite casino licence from the new Gaming Authority Board, which was sworn in last month.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between Bacchus and the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) administration. With the change in government, however, the MoU was put in limbo after pronouncements were made that agreements made under the PPP would not be honoured.
Opposition had come from former Magistrate K.A. Juman Yassin, who had objected to a casino going up on the Church Street location. He had complained about its proximity to a mosque, church and residents.
Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman, had pointed out in an interview that the government which had signed the MoU was no longer in office. He had stated, however, that the agreement would have to be objectively reviewed by the Gaming Authority.
Under the law, only three casinos are allowed in each Region in Guyana. For Region Four, Ramada Princess has one, while another has been earmarked for the Marriott Hotel at Kingston. This means that the remaining casino licence will be in high demand.
Yesterday, Bacchus was determined to continue with his construction. He was not only optimistic of the hotel’s potential to attract guests and hit a 95 percent occupancy rate, but was also confident that he would be granted his licence.
“I don’t really see a controversy. I think there are two licences for Region Four and I am building to suit (with) 150 rooms. So I am very confident that I will get it, because I will reach all the requirements. I have an MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) with the Government and the MOU states you build in accordance with the MOU and you will eventually get the licensing for the casino.”
“The reason why it has 150 rooms is because it (features) a casino. And the law for the casino is that you must do 150 rooms. So we are going ahead with the (construction) for the casino. We only could have finished 40 rooms for the jubilee, because construction takes time.”
“But we’ve finished 40 rooms just for the jubilee. That is the first phase. And the second phase is the casino and the other 110 rooms, which will be finished for July. The complete project is US$8M but I’m doing it in phases.”
Describing some of the setbacks in construction which has been ongoing for the past four years, he stated that these included challenges with human resources, tiling and importing certain materials.
“But most of the furniture is local. Whatever could be done locally, was done.”
Bacchus stated that with the project, at least 300 people will be employed for the casino, restaurant and other components. He pointed out that his workforce will operate on eight-hour shifts. He also stated that he would provide security, using his own firm, for the premises.
Asked about the existing relationship between himself and the nearby mosque, he stated that most of the letters in opposition to the casino were not from the mosque but from passersby and non- attendants of the mosque.
“The mosque never (agitated). Most of the letters were from persons passing and KA Juman Yassin, I don’t think he is a member of the mosque. But the mosque itself never said anything. They never made a statement.”
Bacchus stressed that his proposed casino would be soundproof and enclosed, eliminating noise nuisance on the street. In addition, the businessman provided assurances that parking would be made available for residents and other businesses in the area, including the religious establishments.
The businessman hinted that the machines coming in for the casino would have a unique Guyanese flavor and that the entire interior décor would represent the festive Mashramani spirit. He is aiming for the casino to be completed by July.
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