Harrah's, Starwood announce plans for major resort in the Bahamas

U.S. companies Harrah's Entertainment and Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide will team up with developer Baha Mar Resorts Ltd. to build a sprawling, six-hotel resort complex in the Bahamas, the companies announced Monday.

The US$1.6 billion (-847 million) joint venture includes plans for 3,550 rooms, a 95,000 square-foot (8,825 square-meter) casino and an 18-hole golf course on and around Nassau's Cable Beach, the companies said at a launch in New York. Construction is set to begin in 2007, with opening scheduled for 2010.

The resort, to be called Baha Mar, will generate 10,000 temporary and permanent jobs on the Caribbean island, officials said.

"The Bahamas is a textbook example of a tourism driven economy achieved through a working relationship between the government and the private sector," Tourism Minister Obie H. Wilchombe said.

The deal marks the first partnership between Las Vegas, Nevada-based Harrah's, which operates 40 casinos around the world, and White Plains, New York-based Starwood, which operates the Sheraton and Westin hotels among others, the companies said.

The resort will feature six hotels, the Caesar's Resort Hotel, the St. Regis, the Westin Hotel, W, the Sheraton Hotel and the Windham Nassau Resort, which is currently being renovated. Room prices will range from US$250 (-211) to US$1,000 (-846) a night.

"This is the continuation of a trend of branding and co-branding ... matched with someone local who was able to pull this all together," said Rob Heller, president and chief financial officer of Baha Mar.

Baha Mar will own 57 percent of the resort, Harrah's will own 33 percent and Starwood will own 10 percent.

"By having Harrahs and Starwood, we tap immediately into their customer database. So we will have a massive number of customers that we can directly market to," Heller said.

The project still requires formal approval from the Bahamian government, AP reported. V.A.

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