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Jamaica approves casino license

24 April 2008

JAMAICA -- (PRESS RELEASE) -- Prime Minister, Bruce Golding, has said the Government has taken the decision to permit the licensing of casinos in Jamaica and has already approved proposals for a major new investment predicated on the granting of a casino license.

The Prime Minister, who was making his contribution to the 2008/09 Budget Debate in the House of Representatives April 22, said the decision was based on a review of the issues surrounding casino gambling.

Mr. Golding explained that applications for casino licences, however, will only be considered if certain conditions are met. These are: a minimum investment of US$1.5 billion and the construction of not less than 1,000 rooms; the casino component should be no more than 20 per cent of the total project; operators of the casino will be subject to the approval of the Government after appropriate due diligence including fit and proper tests and evaluation of track record; and an appropriate regulatory framework with the necessary legislation and enforcement mechanism put in place.

He informed that "a team chaired by the Hon. Dennis Lalor has been established to recommend to the Government, the appropriate regulatory framework and tax regime to govern the operation of casinos. These will inform the legislation, which will be brought to Parliament for consideration and approval."

In the meantime, Mr. Golding has informed that the Government has approved proposals from the developers of the Palmyra Resort and Spa, operating under a company known as Celebration Jamaica Limited, for a major new investment predicated on the granting of a casino licence.

This investment involves the development of a 65-acre property adjoining the existing Palmyra Resort at Rose Hall and consisting of 2,080 new hotel rooms. The project will involve a total investment of US$1.8 billion.

Mr. Golding however said that in order for this proposal to be committed to agreement, "we had to re-negotiate the terms of the agreement with the Tavistock Group in respect of Harmony Cove."

"This was so because under the agreement entered into with the previous administration, Harmony Cove would have enjoyed an exclusive licence to operate gaming machines within a 10-mile radius of any border of Trelawny. This exclusive zone encompasses Rose Hall," Mr. Golding said.

"I am in a position to advise that based on our undertaking that it will also be allowed to operate a casino. Tavistock has agreed to restrict its exclusivity to allow for an agreement to be signed with Celebration Jamaica and by an exchange of letters the Heads of Agreement have been amended accordingly," he added.

The Prime Minister also said that Tavistock has agreed to increase the size of the project from 4,500 rooms to 8,500 rooms with an additional investment of between US$1billion and US$2 billion.

"These will be configured in a cluster of 9 hotels with a stupendous array of facilities and amenities. Accordingly, the Government has signed a Heads of Agreement with Celebration Jamaica Limited for the new development at Rose Hall," Mr. Golding said.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister has stressed that "we will ensure that best practices are observed and that only reputable companies with proven integrity are allowed to operate in Jamaica."

"It is our intention to dedicate the revenues from casino operations to a special fund to finance capital development in health, education and security," Mr. Golding said.

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