Avia Collinder, Business Writer
Supreme Ventures Limited (SVL) is investing US$4.5 million (J$415m) in upgrades and expansion of its gaming lounges, a project slated for completion in four weeks, says president and chief executive officer Brian George.
SVL is wrapping up work on its newest lounge, The Secret Room, at Marketplace commercial centre in Kingston, George said.
The new lounge was previously disclosed as a J$100 million (US$1.1m) project to be operated in collaboration with KLE Group as SVL's food service and marketing partner.
The Secret Room will open for business this month.
It follows the upgrading of the Coral Cliff Lounge in Montego Bay over the last month.
"We also have some planned changes for the Acropolis at Barbican," said George. "All projects should be completed by February 1. These projects will see SVL investing over US$4.5M between 2012-2013 in our lounges which is a combination of construction and technology," he said.
SVL's investment in upgrades is being executed amid rising competition from new and expanding players. Gaming investments took off after the Betting Gaming & Lotteries Commission (BGLC) lifted the moratorium on lounges with 20 machines and more.
There are now 25 gaming lounges, including the newest market entrant, The Vault at the Wyndham Hotel in New Kingston which was opened in mid-December by business partners Adam Epstein and Gassan Azan; and the Macau Gaming Lounge which opened in November at Lindsay Crescent in Kingston.
Epstein and Azan are also partners in Sizzling Slots gaming shops. Shops have 19 machines or less, whereas lounges have 20 to 150.
Amina Maknoon, acting executive director of the BGLC, said lounges bring in the most revenue for the commission from the gaming room sector, contributing J$322 million at year ending March 31, 2012 and topping the J$264 million collected the previous year.
The segment was opened up at the top of 2012 after an eight-year ban, with the BGLC receiving seven new applications in May.
The gaming sector is characterised by the two main types of machine: the locally made machines - commonly known as 10c machines - whose winnings are credited by the operator and not the player; and slot machines which are manufactured and imported from overseas.
The former pay an annual flat rate for licensing of J$5,000 per machine; gaming shops also pay an annual flat rate of J$10,000 per machine; and lounges pay a gross profit tax of 6.5 per cent per year to the Consolidated Fund, plus 2.5 per cent to the BGLC and one per cent to the state-operated CHASE Fund.
Revenue for gaming lounges include "the sale of bets as agents of licensed bookmakers, and sale of lottery tickets as agents for the lottery operator," said Maknoon.
"Facilities may also be provided for live music and entertainment; food and alcoholic beverages may be served," she said.
Jamaica is in the process of launching a casino market, but Maknoon notes that the business in that segment is expected to be driven by tourists, whereas the gaming shops and lounges will continue to find their markets among Jamaicans.