With the approval of amendments to the Casino Gaming Act in the Senate, the Government is aiming to attract investments in the country and increase economic activity as part of recovery efforts from the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in the tourism sector.
Piloting the Casino Gaming (Amendment) Act, 2021 in the Senate on July 9, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator the Hon. Kamina Johnson Smith, said the amendments are aimed at strengthening the country’s competitiveness in the tourism industry.
“Tourism is one of the largest contributors to the country’s economy, 31 per cent of Jamaica’s GDP in 2019, and it provides an estimated 350,000 direct and indirect jobs. Stimulating investments in integrated resorts development is expected to strengthen Jamaica’s competitiveness in the tourism industry and to bolster economic development through job creation, increased tax revenue and additional demand for locally produced goods,” she said.
Senator Johnson Smith explained that the proposed amendments are aimed at making changes to the requirement that a prospective investor must fulfil and of which the Minister with responsibility for Finance must be satisfied, in order to declare an integrated resort development to be an approved integrated resort development.
“This will enable the developer to then make an application to the Casino Gaming Commission for a licence to be issued under the Act to operate a casino within the resort development,” she said.
She informed that analysts have forecast that the global casino gaming market will expand at a compound annual growth rate of nine and 11 per cent during the forecast period of 2017 to 2030.
Senator Johnson Smith said subsequent to the review, the Government took the policy decision to amend the principal Act.
She pointed out that the amendments will reduce the room requirements for an approved integrated resort development and to allow for rooms already under construction prior to the making of the application to be included in the projected number of rooms to be available.
“This change, to include rooms under construction, is to ensure that investors who may have already begun construction of a property and subsequently determine that they intend to include elements of an integrated resort development, that they would not automatically be barred from qualifying to apply for their property to be so designated as an approved integrated resort development,” she said.
She noted, however, that rooms already in existence would continue to be excluded. She said further amendments being made to the regime include provisions that stipulate that a certain number of the total rooms to be available are to be designated and constructed as luxury hotel rooms.
Senator Johnson Smith also noted that luxury hotel rooms are defined in the amendment.
“The amendments also establish a timeline within which all the facilities that comprise an integrated resort development are to be constructed, and also provide for a sanction for the failure to comply with the prescribed timeline,” she noted.
She added that the Bill will also set a minimum capital investment to be made by the developer.
Senator Johnson Smith explained that the amendments are meant to enhance the regime and to strengthen its appeal to potential investors.
The Casino Gaming (Amendment) Act, 2021, was approved in the House of Representatives on June 29.
The Casino Gaming Act 2010 was brought into force in June 2010 to facilitate Jamaica’s entry into and subsequent regulation of the casino gaming sector.
One of the principal objectives of the Act is to encourage the establishment of integrated resorts development by licensing these developments to offer casino gaming as part of a mix of various tourism amenities and facilities available to the guests of hotels in such developments.
The Act defines an integrated resort development as one consisting of a mix of various tourism amenities and facilities in the same precinct, including but not limited to hotels, hotel rooms, villas, casinos, attractions, sporting facilities, entertainment facilities, service centres and shopping centres.