Casi-no! Casi-yes! — Bartlett announces first regulated gaming operation

Monday, December 10, 2018

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MONTEGO BAY, ST JAMES — The first of three regulated casinos should be up and running by the start of 2020, but Jamaica will “not be a casino destination”, Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett insisted here Friday.

Bartlett was wrapping up remarks at a seminar on “Hospitality Industry and Casino Operator's Guide to Managing US Liability Issues from the Caribbean' at the upscale Sandals Montego Bay resort.

The minister did not provide details on the proposed casino operation, but said it was expected to add two per cent to the country's gross domestic product (GDP), as it was felt that three million stopover visitors and earnings of US$3 billion would be a key outcome.

Construction of a minimum of 1,000 rooms and US$1 billion in investment would be the minimum condition for acquiring a casino licence, Bartlett said.

“The casino must come with shopping, entertainment, with music, and with maritime experiences and a whole range of other experiences, because we wanted to make sure that the balance remained, so that there wouldn't be stand-alone casino arrangements all over Jamaica,” he told the seminar.

But mindful of historical opposition to casino gambling in Jamaica, Bartlett noted: “We have shied away from gaming as a structured path of the tourism experience for a long time for a number of reasons, one of which has been the experiences that we have looked at in other places, and we have seen some of the attendant negatives and we question very much whether or not we would be able ourselves to manage and be able to deal with the negative impact of it.”

Additionally, he said there had been very strong religious consideration, among other concerns, including money laundering and psychological challenges stemming from gambling addiction.

But the Government had taken a concerted decision “that we wanted to take a deeper dive in this area because it does provide a lucrative element of the tourism product and that it had the potential to drive growth to a level that would put Jamaica where it ought to [be] in terms of the level required to generate additional GDP growth”.

“The fact is that casino for Jamaica is not a requirement for our growth, but within the context of the integrated development model, casino gaming is a driver for exponential growth. So we do not see Jamaica ever becoming a casino destination but rather a destination in which casino gaming is available,“ said Minister Bartlett.

“Casinos should represent no more than 20 per cent of the value of the experience that is offered as the integrated development arrangement,” he added.

Minister Bartlett welcomed the seminar hosted by US law firm Kaufman Dolovic Voluck in association with Montego Bay attorneys Clayton Morgan & Company, noting that it was a good moment to examine the implication and legal ramifications of casinos.

He was, therefore, interested in the outcome of the seminar, particularly Jamaica as a country that is closest to the more celebrated casino areas in the Western world, including Las Vegas.

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