|Casino gaming could soon appear in Jamaica after the Prime Minister stated last week that legalising the activity could generate tax revenues to help pay for health care, education and security.|
Casino gambling is not currently legal in Jamaica with the exception of a few hotels with areas cordoned off for slot and video poker machines. However, Bruce Golding told Parliament that he wants to expand casino gambling in the Caribbean island nation and had already given a group of international investors planning the island's first casino the go-ahead.
The socially conservative country has opposed casino gambling venues in the past, led primarily by Christian religious organisations, and Parliament is due to debate the issue before its summer recess.
'There are those who I know disagree with casino gambling,” said Golding.
“But the fact is that the horse bolted through the gate a long time ago with the granting of licences for hundreds of gaming machines.'
He stated that studies had shown casino gambling would be a viable industry and bring employment but churches and religious groups have decried the decision as a sad day for Jamaica.
'We have always said that gambling, including casino gambling, is personally selfish, morally irresponsible and socially destructive,' the Reverend Peter Garth, head of the Jamaica Association of Evangelicals, told the Jamaica Observer newspaper.
However, the Prime Minister stated that casino licences would be granted on condition that investors commit at least $1.5 billion towards each project, which must involve a hotel with at least 1,000 rooms. In addition, any casino component of a resort facility could be no more than 20 percent of the total project.
'It is our intention to dedicate the revenues from casino operations to a special fund to finance capital development in health, education and security,' said Golding.