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Jamaica will not be a casino destination, says Bartlett

Sunday, December 09, 2018

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ST JAMES, Jamaica — Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett says Jamaica's first regulated casino should be up and running by the start of 2020, but Jamaica will not be a casino destination.

The minister made the disclosure on Friday as he wrapped up remarks at a seminar on Hospitality Industry and Casino Operator's 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 noted that there has been very strong religious consideration, but as a government, a concerted decision was taken “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 said it was felt that three million stopover visitors and earning 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 because of extraordinary effort.

“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.

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.”

According to the tourism ministry, construction of a minimum of 1,000 rooms and US$1 billion in investment have been laid down as the minimum that goes with a casino license.

Bartlett 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.”

He 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.


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