KINGSTON — Minister of Tourism, Hon. Edmund Bartlett, has said that any existing resorts seeking to get casino licences would have to meet the necessary investment and expansion requirements as stipulated in the casino gaming legislation.
He was speaking against the background of two companion measures – the Casino (Application for Declaration of Approved Integrated Resort Development) regulations 2011; and the Casino Gaming (Prescribed Games) regulations 2011, which were approved by the House of Representatives on October 18 sitting at the Jamaica Conference Centre.
“All that have come to us already fulfill that criteria. As a matter of fact, one that has come to us, which already has existing facilities, is looking at 3,000 more rooms, with a convention centre, golf course and marine activities…we are careful about the criteria that we have established,” Mr. Bartlett told colleague members.
Under section nine of the Act, the resort development, which is seeking the casino licence, must include one or more hotels consisting of at least 2,000 rooms. The applicant must also stipulate that at least 1,000 rooms will be available for occupancy before the commencement of operations of a casino in the development.
Meanwhile, in his contribution to the debate, Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Hon. Dr. Christopher Tufton, said the introduction of casino gaming is an important addition to the number of attractions that are available in the tourism industry.
“From an investment expansion perspective, we see where over the next 10 to 15 years, we are likely to see hotel rooms move from approximately 30,000 rooms to 50,000 rooms or beyond,” Dr. Tufton said. He noted that the proposed Harmony Cove development in Trelawny would see as much as 5,000 or 6,000 rooms in one location.
“The point is that when you speak to investors about investing in the expansion of the tourism product, one of the very common questions that come up is when you create the rooms, what are the tourists going to do in terms of the activities that will keep them occupied? It is important to them as investors, as it impacts the attractiveness of the investment package that we are selling,” the Investment Minister stated.
He added that diversified attractions are also important for the country as it relates to jobs, and the impact on the level of tourist spending. “It has been shown in a number of studies that the more you get the tourist engaged and involved in a range of activities, including gaming, the more money that is spent and left here,” Dr. Tufton asserted, noting that the regulations are important in moving forward.
By Alphea Saunders, JIS Reporter