Jamaica doesn't need casino gaming to grow tourism - Bartlett
Jamaica’s first regulated casino should be up and running by the start of 2020, but Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett says the island does not need casino gaming to grow tourism.
“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 Bartlett as he wrapped up a presentation at a seminar on Hospitality Industry and Casino Operator’s Guide to Managing U.S. Liability Issues from the Caribbean, at Sandals Montego Bay.
While not giving details on the first casino, Bartlett said casino gaming would add only two per cent to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
“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,” explained Bartlett.
However, he explained further that the decision was taken by the government “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 in terms of the level required to generate additional GDP growth”.
The tourism minister pointed to the growth now being experienced in stopover arrivals, which surpassed 4.3 million last year, as evidence that the island doesn't need the lure of casino gaming to grow tourism.
Having considered that three casino gaming licenses would be granted, Bartlett said: “Casinos should represent no more than 20 per cent of the value of the experience that is offered as the integrated development arrangement.”
Consequently, construction of a minimum of 1,000 rooms and US$1 billion in investment have been laid down as the minimum requirement for a casino licence.
Additionally, he 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 arrangement all over Jamaica.”