Thu | Feb 20, 2020

Princess Hotels eyeing casino for Hanover resort

Published:Friday | February 14, 2020 | 12:13 AM

S panish hotel company Princess Hotels and Resorts Limited has signalled plans for a casino resort in Jamaica through a megaproject to be undertaken at Green Island in the parish of Hanover.

The casino would augment its previously announced 2,000-room development on the 73-hectare, or 180-acre, property; but checks by the Financial Gleaner indicate that at this stage, the gaming side of the operation may be more of an aspiration than a full-fledged plan.

The hotel group has not responded to requests for comment, neither has Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke opted to comment, but persons inside the finance ministry say there is no indication of a pitch being made for a casino resort development order.

The process of applying for a casino permit operates on two levels. The investor first submits an application to the minister of finance for an approved integrated resort development order, or IRD. To obtain that order, the investor must show plans and the capacity to develop at least 2,000 hotel rooms. Once the first 1,000 rooms have been built and commissioned, the investor may then seek a casino licence from the Casino Gaming Commission, a state entity that is being merged with the Betting, Gaming & Lotteries Commission.

Several years ago under a different governing administration, the finance ministry issued two approved IRDs for casino resorts to Celebration Jamaica and Harmony Cove Limited, but neither of those entities have managed to implement their projects.

As outlined in planning documents submitted to the National Environment & Planning Agency, NEPA, Princess Hotels plans to develop all of its proposed 2,037 rooms within 18-24 months after the planning permits are granted.

The hotel group is aiming to develop an eco-resort in the coastal community of Green Island, say the writers of the environmental report submitted to NEPA.

“This will consist of a combination of four separate hotel blocks, 14 overwater searooms and a casino”, says the environmental assessment report. The report was done by CL Environmental Limited on behalf of Inco Land Limited, an affiliate of Princess Hotels. Its finding will be the basis for public consultations, scheduled for March 5, with residents of Green Island and surrounding communities about the upcoming hotel development.

A finance ministry official said of the casino reference in the report that “it might be that they intend to apply”.

The hotel complex will comprise four blocks to be built in two phases.

“In each phase, there will be two hotels that share the service area, centralised kitchen, industrial area, warehouse and personnel area, making the plot ratio of the land and its environmental impact much lower, because operationally they will work as a single hotel,” the report said.

The resort company previously told the Financial Gleaner that it expects to spend US$150 million to US$500 million on the development.

The Spanish chain started operations in 1967 and has hotels in the Canary Islands, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic.

steven.jackson@gleanerjm.com