he Casino Gaming Amendment, Act 2021 was approved by Jamaica's Senate on Tuesday. The government now seeks to attract investors that will increase the economic activity and will help recovering from the pandemic.
As tourism is one of the largest contributors to the country's economy, representing 31% of Jamaica's GDP in 2019, investments in integrated resorts development is of utmost importance according to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator the Hon. Kamina Johnson Smith.
“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, as reported by Jamaica Information Service.
Senator Smith also noted that analysts have forecast an expansion of the global casino gaming market at a an annual growth rate of nine and 11% between 2017 and 2030.
She also pointed out that the government took the decision to amend the principal Act. These amendments are intended to reduce the room requirements for an approved integrated resort development and enable rooms already under construction to be included in the projected figure of rooms to be available.
“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.
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.
Prior to the amendment's approval in the Senate, Senator Don Wehby, who is also Chairman of Jamaica Promotions Corporations (JAMPRO), addressed the Senate on Friday with the announcement that one investor called JAMPRO President, Dianne Edwards, “asking what is happening”.
Wehby provided details about the nature of these four potential investors who are interested in Jamaica’s casino market. Two of them are brand new to the country, whereas the remaining two are looking forward to expanding their business operations on the island. The latter, in his words, are “renowned brands”.
The Senator was one of the main contributors to the approval of the Act's amendment. During his speech, he underscored how these investments came to be in the light of these changes in the law. He also noted that the previous legislation posed an impairment in terms of investment, as the requirements were inconvenient when it came to current global trends in casino development.
The Senator also pointed out that one of the most significant amendments is the reduction of the room capacity from the required 2,000 rooms to 1,000, half of which will be catalogued as “luxury rooms” that will attract higher rates. This implies higher revenues for the government.
The Act defines an integrated resort development comprising a mix of various tourism amenities and facilities in the same precinct, including hotels, villas, casinos, attractions, sporting facilities, entertainment facilities and shopping centres among other.