Casino Gaming Act Bill Sent to King’s House


The Bill to legislate casino gaming in Jamaica has been sent to King’s House for the Governor-General’s signature following passage in both Houses of Parliament in March.
In an exclusive interview with JIS News, Minister of State in the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service, Senator, the Hon. Arthur Williams outlined the next steps to be taken after the signing, including the Finance Minister’s appointment date notice in the Gazette, the establishment of the Casino Gaming Commission, and the crafting and implementation of appropriate regulations.
He said that great care has to be taken in ensuring that the contingent regulations comprehensively address the details governing the roll-out of casino gaming in Jamaica.
He said that the major challenge is to ensure that the 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,” Senator Williams said.
He 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.
With respect to the appointment of a Chairman (Commissioner) and members of the Casino Gaming Commission, Senator Williams stated that this would follow the appointment date notice from Minister Shaw, after which the working committee which “guided the process” will be formalized into the Commission.
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,” Senator 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 but not limited to hotels, villas, and 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.
With respect to the establishment of the Casino Gaming Commission, the legislation provides regulatory functions to that body governing the conduct of casino gaming. The Commission will have powers to grant casino gaming licences to persons to undertake casino gaming within an approved integrated resort development. It will aalso grant 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.
To facilitate the Commission’s functions, Mr. Shaw is seeking to amend the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Act 1975, under which the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Commission currently regulates and controls the operations of betting and gaming and the conduct of lotteries in Jamaica.
Senator Williams explained that this was being done to ensure that Casino Gaming in Jamaica is supervised and regulated by a dedicated and focused body, the Casino Gaming Commission.
Meanwhile, a recent study, undertaken by the Finance Ministry, to estimate some of the potential impact that gaming activity would have on the Jamaican economy indicated that, in general, the activity would have a positive impact:
Casino projects are expected to generate, in total, some 33,332 jobs (8,333 direct jobs and 24,999 indirect). Casinos have a wage component of J$0.30. That is, from every dollar of revenue earned, 30 cents is expected to be paid out as wages across all sectors of the economy. Of the total wage bill generated by its activities, directly and indirectly, the gaming sub-sector will be directly responsible for some 40 per cent of all wages. Manufacturing’, ‘Agriculture and Meat’, will experience higher wage expenditure because of their links with tourism.For every one dollar ($1) of expenditure on casino gaming, some $2.05 in output, directly and indirectly, will be generated throughout the economy. Apart from tourism, the main beneficiaries of casino gaming will ‘Manufacturing’, ‘Agriculture and Meats’, ‘Distribution’, and ‘Transport, Storage and Communication’.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 gaming sub-sector is expected to account for 32.29 per cent of the increase in non-competitive imports. For every one dollar (J$1) spent within the casino sector, 34 cents (J$0.34) will be spent on the importation of goods and services. Of this amount, 0.25 and 0.09 cents of every dollar will go towards the importation of competitive and non-competitive goods and services, respectively.
The State Minister emphasised that because of the potential impact of casino gaming only serious investors are being targeted, and there is a price to pay by those who fail to honour their commitments.
“The Casino Gaming Act 2010 provides for penalties, ranging from $50,000 for failing to deliver a licence that has lapsed or ceases to be effective, to $50 million for removing seals, or devices of like nature, from the gaming machines,” he said.
Quick off the mark, in response to the news of the passage of the long awaited legislation, Harmony Cove advised JIS News that the company will indeed be applying for a licence under the new Casino Gaming Act.
Speaking with JIS News, Managing Director of the Tavistock Group, Christopher Anand, congratulated the Government on the new development.
“We believe the passing of the casino law begins a new chapter in Jamaican tourism development which will help to stimulate the economy for decades to come. Today, more than ever, we are committed to bringing an exciting and magnetic destination resort to the country at Harmony Cove.”
Local spokesperson for the Tavistock investors, Ms. Lorna Simmonds added, “Harmonisation Limited, which represents the Government in the Joint Venture arrangement with Tavistock Group, welcomed the passage of the Act. The announcement with the offering of the full suite of casino games has made way for an expansion of our original Master Plan for Harmony Cove.
The facility will now be expanded from about 2,500 rooms, to a facility which over phases will include about 8,000 hotel rooms.
Having read the Act, Ms. Simmonds said that Harmony Cove Development will satisfy and substantially exceed the criteria set out in the Act and that the company expects to proceed with the project as soon as possible.
“Harmonisation Limited has not yet got a firm confirmation on the timetable for the Casino Gaming Commission and related facilitatory matters, but we expect that things will be in place in the very near future, and our application will be submitted at the earliest opportunity,” she said.
The Harmony Cove project is located just outside of Duncans, Trelawny, and will be an upscale resort development with a wide range of amenities.

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