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Celebration Jamaica casino resort project ready to roll

Published:Friday | January 8, 2016 | 12:00 AMTameka Gordon
Robert Trotta, developer and conceptualiser of Celebration Jamaica.

Celebration Jamaica plans to break ground early this year for its integrated casino resort, conceived eight years ago by businessman Robert Trotta.

Celebration has partnered with Celebration Casino Corp of Canada to develop the casino.

Trotta, in a media release, said advancing the development "must now be started post-haste," given the time it has taken to get the legislative framework approved.

The project is one of only two granted provisional approval as Integrated Resort Developments (IRD) under the nascent casino laws; the other being Harmony Cove Limited, whose development is in Trelawny.

The provisional orders meant Celebration Jamaica and Harmony Cove were required to start construction of their resorts by the middle of 2016.

Additionally, both companies are expected to develop the first 1,000 rooms under the first phase of an eventual 2,000-room complex, or bigger, before applying to the Casino Gaming Commission for a casino licence.

Celebration Jamaica aims to open its integrated resort, which will feature a casino, entertainment facilities and hotel rooms, for business by 2019.

"That is our target to open," Celebration Jamaica CEO Markus Deutsch told the Financial Gleaner on Thursday. The development will sit on a 90-acre spread at Rose Hall, Montego Bay.

"It will ultimately boast the required 2,000 guest rooms, with 1,000 rooms being developed in the short term," the company said.

There will be an entertainment experience centre featuring "a state-of-the-art music studio; a theatre that will seat 1,200; a banquet hall and casino," the company said of its revamped projections.

New partner Celebration Casino Corp operates some 30 properties with the largest housing 3,000 slot machines, according to the Celebration Jamaica release.

"The group has developed detailed operational plans for Celebration Jamaica," the local entity said.

The estimated cost for phase one of Celebration Jamaica's development is US$500 million, for which Deutsch said financing "is lined up and ready to go".

Harmony Cove and Celebration Jamaica were the only two companies left in contention for three integrated resort orders on offer under Jamaica's new and untested casino laws.

The Ministry of Finance said it got five IRD applications from prospective investors, three of which were either disqualified or dropped out.

The final granting of Approved Integrated Resort Development Order - AIRD - will depend on the performance of the companies in meeting the provisional requirements.

The status of the Harmony Cove project was undetermined up to press time as Dr Lorna Simmonds, executive director of Harmonisation Limited, was unavailable.

The first phase of Harmony Cove will cost US$970 million, to be spent on at least 1,000 hotel rooms, restaurants and retail shops. The full development will span a 2,300-acre property located in Trelawny and will feature a casino, golf courses, a luxury spa, marina facilities, convention, and entertainment centres and hotels.

At last reports, Harmonisation was still trying to finalise Chinese backing for the project.