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Casino Commission, BSJ piloting guidelines for gambling

Published:Wednesday | March 2, 2016 | 12:00 AMTameka Gordon

The Casino Gaming Commission (CGC) is working with Bureau of Standards Jamaica on standards for gambling equipment, modes of betting, and control systems ahead of the commissioning of casinos.

The two agencies have advertised for interest groups to participate in discussions on 15 international standards published by Gaming Laboratories International (GLI).

The Jamaican standards, which are expected to mirror the GLI, will cover areas such as jackpotting devices, monitoring and control systems, electronic table games and cashless gaming, among others.

Chief executive officer of the CGC, Phillip Shelton, said despite not having any applications for casino licenses currently before it, the groundwork needs to be set for the eventual management of the emergent sector. The law as configured requires investors to develop 2,000-room integrated resorts and to first build and commission at least 1,000 of those hotel rooms before they can apply for a casino licence.

The CGC was established by the Casino Gaming Act of 2010 as the regulatory body for casino gaming, including the granting of casino licences, which the law limits to three. It means that Jamaican will accommodate no more than three casinos, each of which has a geographic boundary.

Sheldon declined to fully specify the standards as drafted for industry discussion.

"What we are establishing are the standards for gaming equipment that might be used in a casino in the future. We are setting the standards for all the types of gaming equipment, in particular, gaming machines that might operate in any proposed casino," he said.

Under sections 72 of the Casino Gaming Act, the commission is given the power to specify standards for the gaming equipment.

The gaming sector currently has a number of entities that call themselves casinos, but do not fit the criteria as defined in the 2010 law. They are more so operators of slot machines, and are more accurately characterised as 'gaming lounges' or 'gaming shops', which are policed by the Betting Gaming & Lotteries Commission.

To date, only Celebration Jamaica and Harmony Cove Limited have been granted provisional approval as Integrated Resort Developments, otherwise called casino resorts.

Celebration is headed by Robert Trotta, while Harmony Cove is a partnership of the Jamaican Government, Tavistock, and still-unnamed Chinese backers.

Both companies have outlined plans to begin construction by at least midyear, as required by the provisional orders granted by the minister of finance.

The GLI standards have been adopted by sectors throughout the United States, Canada and South America, Shelton said, adding that the proximity of these markets to Jamaica factored into the decision to pull the guidelines from the GLI.

Overall, it is expected that operators will be guided by the stipulations when procuring equipment, he said, noting that it could shorten the approval process.

"By adopting the GLI standards, there is a huge advantage for the Jamaican industry, in that the machines, if purchased and approved under the GLI, (allows) the commission to more quickly approve those machines to get to market," said the CGC chief executive.

"So it will give the casino industry in Jamaica the ability to get new products to market much quicker," he said.