'Beautiful opportunity'

US attorney urges Jamaica to get into casino gambling

Observer staff reporter

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

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MONTEGO BAY, St James — A doyen in the world of casino gaming, US attorney Bruce Liebman, is urging Jamaica to up the ante and evolve from gaming lounges, which predominantly attracts locals, and evolve into full-scale casino gambling to attract tourists in larger venues.

Liebman, who is co-managing partner in the Florida-based law firm Kaufman Dolowich & Voluck, was speaking at a seminar on “Hospitality Industry and Casino Operator's Guide to Managing US Liability issues from the Caribbean”, put on by his firm and Montego Bay lawyer Clayton Morgan at Sandals Montego Bay last Friday night.

“We all understand that 22 islands in the Caribbean have some form of legalised gambling, we also know that full-scale casino gambling is not yet permissible in Jamaica. You have the slot parlours, the gaming lounges that are scattered throughout the country... I went to a few of them last (Thursday) night, I didn't see a lot of tourists there. A lot of locals, but the key is to get the tourists there and the key is to get tourists to bigger gaming operations that they are used to seeing in destination resorts,” Liebman advised.

“So there are no table games in Jamaica yet, but you guys have what I deem as simulated gaming operations, almost like slot machines, but for black jack and poker,” he said.

The US attorney also called on the Government to quickly embrace integrated casino gambling and possibly forge ahead of the state of Florida in the lucrative industry.

This, according to Liebman, has come about as a result of the recent passage of law in Florida.

“Because of Amendment 3, Jamaica has an unbelievable opportunity to get ahead of the state of Florida. Because I do not think, in my lifetime, we will see any future casino resort growth in Florida, and especially no growth on the ocean. I think you can categorically say that there will be no destination Las Vegas-style on the beach in Florida. So if you guys can get there in the next few years and put casinos in an integrated format with entertainment, with condominiums, with shopping, with golf courses, and get it on an ocean with your beautiful sand and your beautiful beaches, you will be ahead of the state of Florida, and I believe that's a beautiful opportunity,” Liebman outlined.

He also encouraged potential players in the casino gaming sector to engage in sports gaming.

Liebman, who, along with Florida-based attorney Michel Morgan, spoke after guest speaker Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett, also warned that whenever casino gambling is freed up in the destination, stakeholders must ensure that customers are treated hospitably.

“Your biggest competitors in the region are obviously Bahamas, Aruba, Puerto Rico, and if you guys have the opportunity to bring casino gambling to the island, take care of your customers. I give you one piece of advice, take good care of your patrons. A lot of your competitors in the Caribbean do not value casino customers and do not treat them as they are [treated] in the United States, in Las Vegas, or in gaming centres in the United States.

For his part, Bartlett argued that casino offerings in Jamaica must be accompanied by “integrated development arrangements”.

“And so, casino must come with shopping, must come with entertainment, and with music, and with maritime experience, and a whole range of experiences. Because we want to make sure that the balance remain, so that there wouldn't be stand-alone casino arrangements all over Jamaica,” the tourism minister said.

— Horace Hines

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