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Casino legislation comprehensive, strict, says senator

Published:Friday | April 30, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Senator Arthur Williams, state minister of finance, said great care has to be taken in ensuring that the contingent regulations of the casino bill comprehensively address the roll-out of that brand of gaming in Jamaica.

The Casino Gaming Act 2010, which was passed in both Houses of Parliament in March, has been sent to Governor General Sir Patrick Allen for his signature.

Williams said the major challenge was to ensure that casinos are run according to the strict rules that are set down.

"In this regard, apart from the main legislation, detailed regulations have to be promulgated," the senator said.

Williams noted that the experience in other countries show that regulations for the operation of casinos can run into hundreds of pages. In one jurisdiction, the regulations run into 1,800 pages, because it covers all eventualities in detail, he emphasised.

Economic benefits

He urged Jamaicans not to lose sight of the economic benefits that can accrue from this landmark development, particularly during these challenging times.

"Casino gaming will expand our tourism product, increase earnings, generate employment and increase tax revenues. For instance, the investment to build one 2,000-room hotel is some US$1.5 billion," Williams said.

According to the Memorandum of Objects and Reasons of the Casino Act 2010, the policy governing casino gaming in Jamaica will be done within the context of luxury, integrated-resort developments, of which casino gaming will be but one component. The integrated-resort development concept will provide a mix of various tourism facilities, including hotels, villas, attractions, sporting facilities, service centres and shopping centres, the bill pointed out.

It also states that the casino-gaming component should be no more than 20 per cent of the total investment in any approved integrated-resort development.

Commission's power

The Casino Gaming Commission will have power to grant casino gaming licences to persons to undertake casino gaming within an approved integrated resort development, as well as personal licences for specific individuals identified by the commission as occupying management positions or carrying out operational functions in a casino.

The Commission will also be empowered to ensure that casino gaming is conducted fairly, legally and in a manner which protects children and vulnerable persons.

The Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Act 1975 will be amended to facilitate the commission's functions.

Meanwhile, a recent study undertaken by the finance ministry estimated that casino projects here would generate more than 33,000 jobs - more than three quarter of them indirect - and 30 cents in every dollar will go to wages.

Gaming is expected to account for 51.23 per cent of the increase in competitive imports (external purchase of goods and services that are produced locally), the study found.