Casino commission coming - Wednesday 6th of August 2008

A special commission is to be established to regulate the operations of casinos across the island.

A release from Jamaica House yesterday stated that Prime Minister Bruce Golding made the announcement and outlined other details related to casino gambling at a meeting with St James parish councillors in Montego Bay recently.

In April, Golding used his budget presentation to announce the introduction of casino gambling, and said a team chaired by Dennis Lalor had been established to recommend to the Government the appropriate regulatory framework and tax regime to govern the operation of such facilities.

Consideration, approval

According to Golding, these would inform the legislation, which would be brought to Parliament for consideration and approval.

But since then, there has been no word from the administration on the status of the work of this team.

However, Golding has moved to allay fears expressed by the Church and other groups that the introduction of casinos would lead to an increase in gambling addictions, particularly among persons at the bottom of the economic ladder.

"Any fear that the small man is going to gamble off his money should be dismissed," he told the parish councillors. "We are talking about high-end gamblers. You have to have good credit cards before you can even consider entering these casinos."

The prime minister also dismissed some hotel operators concerns that their gaming parlours would be outlawed with the introduction of casinos.

The prime minister told the Montego Bay group that new hotels could continue to put inone gaming machine for every 10 rooms.

He said the exclusive casino licences would not affect establishments with under 20 machines, while persons can still apply for approval to operate businesses with fewer than 50 machines.

Specific conditions

The Government had previously announced that applications for casino licences would only be considered if certain conditions were met.

These include a minimum investment of US$1.5 billion ($108 billion) and the construction of a minimum of 1,000 rooms.

In addition, the casino component should be no more than 20 per cent of the total project; operators of the casino will be subject to the approval of the Government after appropriate due diligence, including fit and proper tests and evaluation of track record.

Two entities - Palmyra Resort and Spa, operating under a company known as Celebration Jamaica Limited; and the Tavistock Group, which is developing the Harmony Cove property in Trelawny - have already been given provisional approval to establish casinos.

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