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Posted March 03, 2008 by publisher in Cuban History

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In 1959, Fidel came down from the mountains of Cuba to depose the corrupt Batista regime. The casino in Havana was one of the first businesses to feel the effect of the revolution, and it closed almost immediately. The casino had American management, and, in short order, the casino bosses found themselves in premature retirement in Miami Beach.

Not for long, though.

Just across the Gulf Stream, to the east, the Bahamian government decided to introduce gambling as a way to increase tourism. Freeport was struggling in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, and it was felt that the introduction of casinos would turn the place around.

Having made the decision, the powers-that-be then cast around to find someone to open, manage and run the casino. Who better than the casino bosses recently evicted from Cuba by Castro? In those days, prior to today’s bean counters, they were among the few people who knew how to run a casino.

So, in late 1963, these highly experienced American casino management-types were brought in to Freeport to get a casino off the ground. At about the same time, more of them came in to Nassau, to run the Paradise Island casino, which was due to open soon after the Freeport operation.

Paradise opened in 1967 - and the company that ran that casino became Resorts International. And in 1978, Resorts opened the first casino in the United States outside of Las Vegas, in our fair city, using much the same casino-management experience passed on by the casino bosses who had been kicked out of Cuba almost 29 years earlier.

Thanks, Fidel!

TIM HENDLEY

Port Republic

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