Government tables ministry paper on casino gaming

A critical step in the process of establishing casino gaming in Jamaica was taken Tuesday with the tabling of a ministry paper on the proposed legislation in Parliament.

Ministry Paper number 3/2009 introduced the basis for the legislation, the new Casino Gaming Act, with provisions for a regulatory framework to be administered by a casino gaming commission as well as for a taxation regime.

Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett said Tuesday night that it is a key plank in the process of product diversification for tourism enunciated by himself and Prime Minister Bruce Golding.

The ministry paper points out that the diversification of the tourism profile to include luxury-integrated resorts is a priority of the Government. Bartlett said he expects the legislation to be tabled in Parliament very shortly.

According to the ministry paper, there will be a tax on the gross winnings of the licensee or the amount staked or bet by customers less the amount paid out to customers as winnings. The minister will make regulations covering time and manner of payment, rates of interest on late payments and offences for breaches.

There will be no allowance for bad debt resulting from credit extended for gambling.

The number of casinos will be restricted and the casino component will form no more than 20 per cent of the total scope and cost of each approved project.

The Government is already negotiating with two investors – Tavistock Group, which is to start its 8,000-room Harmony Cove in Trelawny in 2010, and Palmyra Resort & Spa which plans to construct a 1,000-room casino hotel as part of its Celebration Jamaica project in Montego Bay.

In his budget speech last year, Golding announced the government’s decision to go ahead with the issuing of the two licences. The projects are expected to employ approximately 25,000 workers.