Jamaica Enacted Casino Laws to Attract Investors

The Jamaican government has made amendments to the Casino Gaming Act of 2010 in what appears to be a strategic move aimed at boosting the country’s economic recovery in the wake of the pandemic.

It’s no secret that the tourism sector holds a lot of weight in Jamaica’s GDP, so this move might be just what the island needs.

Unlike Jamaica, Australia’s laws are more stringent. It is regulated by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) and the opening of new online gambling sites is quite difficult, but still there this business exists.

A Closer Look at the Amendments

Senator Don Wehby introduced the Casino Gaming (Amendment) Act, 2021 in the Upper House of Parliament. When you think about it, it’s a rather significant step for the Casino Gaming Industry in Jamaica.

When the original Casino Gaming Act was put into place over ten years ago, many had high hopes.

However, despite its promises, it hadn’t lured a single investor. This had me thinking: was the original act too restrictive? Or were there other factors at play?

It seems that the stagnation of the Act raised eyebrows in the corridors of power, prompting a reevaluation of its provisions.

And indeed, after a comparative analysis with global trends and taking into account feedback from those elusive potential investors, changes were made.

Both Houses of Parliament have now given their nod to these changes in the Casino Gaming (Amendment) Act 2021. Here’s a breakdown of what’s new:


  • Earlier, a hotel had to boast a massive 2,000 rooms. Now? Just 1,000, with 500 of those being luxury rooms. That sounds a lot more feasible.


  • If you have rooms that are already in the construction phase, they’ll count in your projected room tally for an integrated resort. Makes sense.


  • There’s now a specified timeline for constructing the facilities that’ll be a part of an integrated resort.


  • If you don’t stick to the timeline, consequences like sanctions will occur.


  • Minimum capital investment ensures that only serious players step into the game.


Senator Don Wehby’s Take on the Amendments

Jamaica’s move towards revolutionising its Integrated Resort Development (IRD) sector is akin to piecing together a giant jigsaw puzzle. Picture this sector as a vibrant collage that brings together tourism, entertainment, media, and even gambling, offering visitors a unique, all-encompassing experience. It’s like a one-stop shop for fun and relaxation!

Remember the glitz and glam of the 1990s’ most iconic establishments, like the MGM Grand? They pretty much set the trend for what we now know as “integrated resorts.” This concept isn’t just a blast from the past; modern investors are constantly on the lookout for such holistic entertainment hubs.

During a lively discussion in the Upper House, Senator Don Wehby painted a vivid picture of the situation:

  • Casting a glance at the big picture, Senator Wehby pointed out some eye-opening numbers. In 2019, the worldwide casino gaming market was a gigantic playground worth US$457.5 billion! Just let that sink in. Within this colossal figure, casinos alone were bringing in a hefty US$144.6 billion. It’s like staring at an enormous pie and realising just how big your slice could be!


  • The initial Gaming Act had more of a vintage charm than an investor magnet’s allure. Having hung around for over a decade, it sort of missed the boat in drawing substantial investments. Think of it as an old, classic car that’s gorgeous to look at but not quite ready for a modern race. The evident stagnation was a red flag, signalling that it was time for an upgrade.


  • What do people investing big money actually think? Their feedback is like gold dust for shaping any industry. Some investors felt the earlier act had set the bar a bit too high, making it tougher than the international norms for casino development. It’s like expecting someone to jump six feet when they’ve just learned to hop! The revised act, therefore, is like a new game plan, aiming to be more inclusive and realistic.

Senator Wehby’s insights aren’t just figures and facts thrown around; they’re a roadmap for what could be a game-changer for Jamaica’s economy and tourism. Who wouldn’t want to see this beautiful island turn into a buzzing hub of global attraction?

Tourism & Casinos – A Perfect Blend?

Senator Wehby emphasised the importance of diversifying Jamaica’s tourism products through the casino gaming industry.

With integrated resort developments, visitors are introduced to marinas, golf courses, casinos in hotels and other recreational facilities.

Thereby, it is elevating the Jamaican tourism experience. Such developments can also foster stronger economic linkages within Jamaica.

However, this requires targeted strategies and policies to encourage the purchase of locally produced goods and services by foreign investors. The Tourism Linkages Council and JAMPRO are pivotal in bridging this gap.

Are There Any Potential Concerns and Responsibilities?

Senator Wehby acknowledged some potential challenges Jamaica might have to handle over time. 

  • A potential spike in gambling addiction? A valid concern, isn’t it? The adverse effects of gambling addiction on society cannot be ignored. Some countries, like the Bahamas, restrict citizens from gambling in local casinos to counter this. And in Finland on the contrary, the locals are very fond of their products, such as the Vauhti casino.


  • Economic info leakage? Another worry. The prevalence of import leakage, where revenue generated within Jamaica is used to import goods, has been a concern. Efforts are underway to promote the purchase of local goods and reduce such leakages.


  • And last but not least, the dark world of financial scams, including money laundering and financing of terrorism which is quite often associated with the casino industry.

Senate Approval and The Way Forward

The Senate’s recent approval of the Casino Gaming Amendment Act 2021 reinforces Jamaica’s commitment to fostering an investor-friendly climate.

As of 2023, this is the most recent piece of legislation in Jamaica that deals with gambling.

Further encouragement for investors is evident from the Senator and Chairman of Jamaica Promotions Corporation, revealing that four potential investors, including two renowned brands new to Jamaica, have shown interest in the casino market post-amendments.

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