Casino debate to start in Jamaica

KINGSTON, Jamaica, June 29, 2009 – The Jamaica government is pressing ahead with its plans, announced since last year, to open up the island’s tourism industry to casino gambling, and will tomorrow table the Casino Gaming Bill with the hope of passing the legislation by next month.

The step comes after some delay which Prime Minister Bruce Golding has sought to explain: “We spent a long time preparing the draft because we wanted to ensure that every sentence was right; that every ‘t’ was crossed and every ‘i’ dotted.”

He said that the government was hoping to have the Bill debated in July and passed into law, as there were at least two investments awaiting the legislative framework.

Government has already given an undertaking to two companies that it is prepared to formally consider their applications for casino licences, but he said that certain commitments would have to be made by any potential investors.

“Before you can get a licence, you have to give us a bankable guaranteed commitment that you are going to build new hotels, with not less than 2,000 rooms and an investment of not less than US$1.5 billion,” he said.

“We want hotel rooms, we want employment, we want to be sure that when you get a licence you are going to use that licence to bring in thousands more visitors to Jamaica. That is how we are going to continue growing the tourism sector.”

It was last April that Golding announced his administration’s plans to legalise casinos, despite stiff opposition from religious groups in the island.

The Prime Minister insisted that studies have shown that casino gambling would be a viable industry in Jamaica and would bring employment for citizens and money for government.