Grenada casino bill passes first hurdle
The Grenada Parliament late Thursday, approved legislation to allow casino gambling.
The bill, known as the Casino and Gaming Act 2014, next goes to the Senate for debate.
The legislation provides for the owners of hotels with more than 300 rooms to apply for a licence to operate a casino on the property.
The bill was piloted by Planning and Economic Affairs Minister Oliver Joseph, who said that the legislation was drafted following a review of the impact of casino gambling on other CARICOM countries.
Tourism Minister Alexandria Otway-Noel said that Grenada stands to benefit significantly from the passage of the legislation, noting that it would enhance the island's tourism product.
"This bill will help us to do what God wants us to do ... our tourism sector demands more entertainment. We have the opportunity now to redesign our tourism sector so that it can bring great benefits to our people."
Joseph told legislators the intention of the legislation is to provide casino entertainment to satisfy the demands of visitors and that the legislation is clear in that all casino facilities must be attached to an operating hotel.
"The casino must be on the premises. You cannot have the hotel in one location like St George and the casino in St David," he told legislators.
"No person under 18 or locals will be able to go into a casino to participate in the activities," he said.
Government legislator Tobias Clement is against the ban on locals, saying the measure is a contravention of the rights of nationals.
"That section of the bill appears to be giving more rights to the visitor than a local with regard to gambling rights as it is restricting their movement and right to assembly. You cannot tell people how to spend their money," he said, while urging Parliament to carefully review the legislation.
Under the bill, Grenadians would be fined EC$10,000 for gambling at a local casino. The same fine applies to underage persons.
Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell had objected to the original fine of EC$100,000, saying "this is ridiculously too high".
The Grenada Parliament is controlled by the Keith Mitchell administration after it won all 15 seats in the February 2013 general election.