Jamaica Outlines Plans for First Casino in 2020, Says it Doesn’t Want to be Casino Destination

Posted on: December 12, 2018, 10:34h. 

Last updated on: December 12, 2018, 10:34h.

The Caribbean island nation of Jamaica is set to open its first-ever casino by the year 2020, but officials are cautioning that it doesn’t mean the country is about to become a casino tourist destination.

Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett says Jamaica is willing to open its doors to casinos on a conditional basis. (Image: Loop Barbados)

Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett revealed few facts around the coming casino when he broached the topic at a recent hospitality industry event in St James, Jamaica. Other than an opening date of 2020, only a few other details were disclosed.

  • The casino is expected to create a two percent bump in GDP growth for the country.
  • The casino would not be a stand-alone facility and must include shopping, entertainment, and other experiences.
  • Any developer would need to invest a at least a billion dollars and build a minimum of 1,000 hotel rooms to attach to the gaming facility.

But questions remain about where the casino would be built, who would operate it, and what games it would be offered up.

Walking a Fine Line

Bartlett did reveal that Jamaican officials have recently warmed to the idea of a casino after resisting it for years.

We have seen some of the attendant negatives and we question very much whether or not we would be able ourselves to manage and be able to deal with the negative impact of it,” Bartlett told the Jamaican Observer.

Plans for the country’s first casino were revealed back in 2014, but they never came to fruition.

Religious considerations in the deeply Christian country are significant a factor, but the potential for growing tourism is apparently too lucrative to resist. The goal, according to Bartlett, is to bring in an additional three million annual visits and $3 billion in revenue.

However, officials appear to be walking a fine line, saying that while they want in on casino revenues, it’s “not a requirement for our growth.”

“We do not see Jamaica ever becoming a casino destination but rather a destination in which casino gaming is available,“ Bartlett clarified.

Florida’s Loss, Jamaica’s Gain?

Florida-based lawyer Bruce Liebman also spoke at the recent hospitality conference. He’s encouraging the Jamaican government to take advantage of the opportunity presented by recent changes to Florida’s gaming industry.

Florida voters passed Amendment 3 in November’s midterm elections, meaning that any gaming expansion in the state is now in the hands of its citizens, not lawmakers.

With gaming growth expected to stagnate in the Sunshine State as a result, Liebman says there is now a tremendous opportunity for Jamaica, located about 700 miles south of Florida.

“So if you guys can get there in the next few years,” he told conference attendees, “and put casinos in an integrated format with entertainment, with condominiums, with shopping, with golf courses, and get it on an ocean with your beautiful sand and your beautiful beaches, you will be ahead of the state of Florida.”