Jamaica will not be a casino destination - Bartlett
Jamaica's first regulated casino should be up and running by the start of 2020, but Jamaica will not be a casino destination.
This was disclosed last Friday by Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett as he wrapped up remarks at a seminar themed 'Hospitality Industry and Casino Operators' Guide to Managing US Liability Issues from the Caribbean', at Sandals Montego Bay.
While not giving details on the first casino, Bartlett spoke of the contribution casino gaming is expected to make to the Jamaican economy as an addition to the tourism product, providing two per cent to GDP growth.
"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," said Bartlett.
Additionally, he said that there have been very strong religious considerations, but as a government, a concerted decision was taken "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 be in terms of the level required to generate additional GDP growth".
The tourism minister said that it was felt that three million stopover visitors and earnings of US$3 billion would be a key point spurred on by casino gaming, but those figures have already been surpassed, with 4.3 million visitors last year without the lure of a casino but through extraordinary effort.
"The fact is that casino [gaming] 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.
Having considered that three casino gaming licences 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." Construction of a minimum of 1,000 rooms and US$1 billion in investment has been laid down as the minimum that goes with a casino licence.
Elaborating on the arrangement, 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 arrangements all over Jamaica."
Bartlett welcomed the seminar, hosted by US law firm Kaufman Dolovic Voluck, in association with Montego Bay attorneys Clayton Morgan & Company, noting that it was a good moment to examine the implication and legal ramifications. He is, therefore, interested in the outcome of the seminar "as we look now ... on what the legal implications are, and particularly as a country that is closest to the more celebrated casino areas in the Western world, including Las Vegas".