Baha Mar resort

Chinese investors will pour $1 billion into an Antigua resort and create the Caribbean’s largest casino; this competing project on the island, the Baha Mar, is shown  under construction in 2013. (Image: Jeong Ku Hwang/Baha Mar/AP)

An Antigua casino resort has drawn interest now from Chinese casino investors who are ready to pump US$1 billion ($1.07 billion) into the project on the Caribbean island and expand it into a veritable city with all the amenities one would expect therein.

The ‘Singulari’ scheme by Beijing-based company, Yida International Investment Group, and partners will include hotels, schools and a hospital, as well as a gambling establishment that will become the Caribbean’s biggest casino.

Construction on the mega-complex is set to begin next year. The reports come just months after a member of the United Arab Emirates’ ruling family, Sheik Taniq bin Faisal Al Qassemi, penned an agreement to invest in a luxury 5-star hotel on Antigua’s coast.

It seems to be a time for major casino projects in the Caribbean. On the island of New Providence in the Bahamas, the Baha Mar resort is currently under construction, with the complex to include a 100,000-square-foot casino featuring 1,500 slot machines and 150 table games, a hotel with over 2,000 rooms, and golf course designed by Jack Nicklaus. Former Las Vegas Sands employees have been roped in to manage the new casino and hotel.

Once built, however, the Baha Mar casino will still fall short of the size of the one proposed by the Yida International Investment Group.

New Use For Stanford’s Pad

The new complex will be built on 1,600 acres of land that was previously owned by the disgraced Ponzi scheme criminal, Allen Stanford, and consists of 900 acres of land plus 700 acres of islands. With the land in the hands of the liquidators, Yida International Investment Group and its business partners were able to secure a deal.

Once Antigua’s biggest employer, the Texan banker first came to attention in Australia after he bankrolled cricket matches in the Caribbean and England.

$7 Billion Ponzi Scheme

Stanford underwent investigations by US authorities into his business dealings following the collapse of his attempts to organise Twenty20 cricket games in England. It emerged that Stanford, once one of the world’s richest men, had been operating a fraudulent banking scheme which affected 30,000 investors. In all, he was responsible for defrauding his investors of more than $7 billion. The American was jailed for 110 years and is currently serving his sentence in Florida.

Life After Allen Stanford

Both hotel and casino projects are part of a move by the Antiguan government to pump millions into a fractured local economy. Allen Stanford was convicted of fraud in 2012, but the after-effects are still being felt. Stanford was a dual citizen of the US and Antigua & Barbados, and was at one stage the island’s biggest private sector employer, before his 2009 arrest.

A combination of the global economic slowdown and Stanford’s activities meant that Antigua has suffered years of decline. It is hoped 1,000 jobs will be created by the new project, with many reserved for local workers.

On announcement of the deal, a spokesman for Yida said that, “over the next 10 years, Yida Group and its global partners will create an additional US$2 billion [$2.14 billion] of gross domestic product and economic value to Antigua.”

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