Both Houses of Parliament have now given the nod of approval for prospective developers of approved integrated resorts in Jamaica to apply for licenses to operate casinos within these establishments.
This, following the Senate’s passage, on Friday (Nov. 9), of the legislations which will govern the process: the Casino Gaming (Prescribed Games) Regulations, 2012, and the Casino Gaming (Application for Declaration of Approved Integrated Resort Development) Regulations, 2012. Both were passed in the House of Representatives during its sitting on October 2.
The issuing of casino gaming licenses is facilitated under the Casino Gaming Act, as an incentive for the establishment of a prescribed number of large integrated resort developments in the country. Integrated resorts are developments featuring a range of amenities such as hotels, convention facilities, entertainment shows, themed attractions, and luxury retail and fine dining, which are incorporated with casino gaming.
Under the Act, which was passed in 2010, no more than three integrated resort developments, with licensed facilities for casino gaming, will be allowed to operate in Jamaica.
According to Leader of Government Business in the Senate, Hon. A.J. Nicholson, who led the debate in the Upper House, the regulations “signal to prospective developers and investors that we are now ready to receive applications”.
He explained that the regulations seek to provide the framework within which applications may be made to the Minister of Finance and Planning for the granting of an Order for an approved integrated resort development. Additionally, to prescribe the range and nature of the games, the playing of which constitutes casino gaming under the Casino Gaming Act.
While supporting both Regulations, Opposition Senator, Kamina Johnson-Smith, raised concerns over the provisions governing the approved integrated resort development. This, in relation to the documents required if the applicant is a company, as against a partnership, which are a certificate of incorporation and a certificate of good standing, or their equivalent.
“These documents do not exist in relation to partnerships. They relate to companies only. So I believe that the mention of the word partnership needs to be deleted or (it) needs to be clarified that these are required to be provided where a partnership is comprised of one or more companies,” she said.
Continuing, Senator Johnson-Smith added: “I want to suggest that this concern is important enough, in light of the substantive requirement, that the appropriate level of corporate and personal scrutiny be applied to applicants at this very seminal stage of casino development in Jamaica…I believe that the issue is substantive enough and that it (can be) easily… corrected (and) could be resubmitted to the technical persons for adjustment of the section and (be) re-submitted to both Houses”.
While indicating that he does not support casino gaming, Government Senator, K.D. Knight, nonetheless, suggested that the necessary safeguarding measures be put in place to address some of the challenges, such as addiction, that could arise consequent casino gaming’s introduction.
In response, Senator Nicholson said he was cognizant of the fact that casino gaming “will never command consensus in any society; but what we must do is seek…to find consensus on the legislative way forward”.
In terms of adjustments to the Regulations, he pointed out that the Senate does not have the power to amend this legislation. He advised, however, that he has requested that the technical officers in the Ministry of Finance and Planning report to the Senate, within two weeks, as to whether adjustments suggested by the Senators are to be applied to the Regulations.
Government Senators Noel Sloley, Lambert Brown, and Imani Duncan-Pryce, and their Opposition counterparts, Dr. Christopher Tufton, and Alexander Williams, also contributed to the debate.