Jamaica Approves Two Casino Projects

The Jamaican government has provisionally approved two new casinos totaling a $1.3 billion investment: Harmony Cove (l.) in Trelawny and Celebration Jamaica Development in Montego Bay. Both must start construction by mid-2016 and eventually must offer more than 2,000 hotel rooms, completing at least 1,000 before gaming licenses could be granted.

Jamaica Finance Minister Dr. Peter Phillips recently announced the government has provisionally approved two applications from casino developers. Five applications had been received for the maximum of three casinos allowed under the Casino Gaming Act of 2012. Together the two casinos represent an investment of about .3 billion.

The larger of the two projects will be developed by Harmony Cove Limited in Trelawny, featuring casinos, five hotels with up to 5,000 rooms, 450 residential units, two PGA golf courses, a 350-boat marina and private airport. The cost of the first phase will be $970 million. Harmony Cove is a partnership between investment firm Tavistock Group and the state-owned Harmonization Limited which will hold a 49 percent stake. The partnership structure could change, however, under financing deals with Chinese backers.

The other development, Robert Trotta’s Celebration Jamaica Development Ltd. on Montego Bay, would offer a 75,000 square foot casino and sportsbook space, restaurants and bars, retail outlets and a Caribbean World music entertainment complex. Phase one would cost about $500 million.

Each project must start construction by mid-2016. Eventually each must offer more than 2,000 hotel rooms, with 1,000 minimum required to be developed before the Casino Gaming Commission would grant a gaming license.

Philips said, the two projects together will create more than 5,100 jobs and result in “a strengthening of the tourism industry’s competitiveness and the bolstering of economic development through job creation, increased tax revenue and additional demand for locally produced goods and services.”

The three other bidders were Amaterra Jamaica, Casino Royale and Fiesta Jamaica. Their applications were rejected or withdrawn during the Ministry of Finance and Planning’s due diligence phase.

Minister of Finance Horace Dalley noted the gaming industry in Jamaica will generate $7 billion this year, up from $4.5 billion last year. “That is why we are paying so much attention to this sector,” said. He added the government does not expect the casinos to cannibalize the operations of gaming lounges, but encouraged them to be proactive to retain their market positions and customer base. We do not anticipate a shift in your current clientele from your gaming lounges to these large-scale casinos and resorts. However, you can’t just sit down and feel that people are going to come there forever,” Dalley said.

He also said the government is “reviewing the intricacies” of internet gambling. “We recognize that the rapid expansion of internet use and access has lead to the growth of the online gaming market, which represents one of the fastest growing segments of gaming industry worldwide,” Dalley said.