The Jamaican government has affirmed that it aims to have the country’s first integrated resort casino open by the start of 2020.
During a speech at at a business seminar at the Sandals Montego Bay resort on 7 December, Jamaica’s minister of Tourism, Edmund Bartlett, confirmed that the island’s first major casino operation – which he did not identify by name – expects to begin operations in just over a year’s time.
Bartlett emphasised that casinos are “not a requirement for [Jamaica’s] growth” with the government looking to develop casino gaming only “within the context of the integrated development model”.
The licence requirements set out by the Ministry of Tourism mandate that an integrated resort project should include a minimum of 1,000 rooms and represent $1bn in investment in order to qualify for a casino licence.
“The casino must come with shopping, entertainment, with music and with maritime experiences and a whole range of other experiences because we wanted to make sure that the balance remained, so that there wouldn’t be stand-alone casino arrangement all over Jamaica,” Bartlett explained.
“Casinos should represent no more than 20 percent of the value of the experience that is offered as the integrated development arrangement.”
However, while the island nation gave provisional approval for two resort casino developments back in 2015 – Harmony Cove’s $970m resort in Trelawny and Celebration Jamaica Development’s $500m project in Montego Bay – since then there has been little movement on either project.
“Jamaica has slot parlours, but I didn’t see a lot of tourists there.” said Bruce Liebman, co-managing partner in the Florida-based law firm Kaufman Dolowich and Voluck, speaking at the event. “The key is to get tourists to bigger gaming operations that they are used to seeing in destination resorts.
“There are no table games in Jamaica yet,” he continued. “Jamaica has an unbelievable opportunity to get ahead of the state of Florida if you develop casinos in an integrated format.”