Prime Minister Bruce Golding says a special commission is being established to regulate the operations of casinos. New hotels, he said, could continue to put in one gaming machine for every ten rooms.
The licensing exclusivity being given to the new casino operators will not affect establishments with under 20-machines and operators can still apply and obtain machines as long as the applications are below 50 machines.
Golding outlined these details at a meeting with St James Parish Councilors during his one-day visit to Montego Bay recently. While in Montego Bay, he also met with various other interest groups including representatives of the Negril Environmental Protection Trust, Church leaders and members of the Montego Bay business community. Minister of Housing and Water and MP for St. James North Western, Dr Horace Chang, was also in attendance.
Responding to queries from the Councilors, Golding explained that Jamaicans would not be excluded from playing, and that the casinos would be run by high end operators. He dispelled fears by the Church and others that the introduction of casino gambling would result in the small hotel worker gambling off his pay. “Any fear that the small man is going to gamble off his money should be dismissed. We are talking about high end gamblers. You have to have good credit cards before you can even consider entering these casinos”, he confirmed.
Other matters discussed covered the need for the stakeholders to consult on the Tourism Enhancement Fund and how it can be used more effectively to impact on the tourist resorts. The need to cauterize squatting throughout St James; the payment of property taxes, the farm work program; road maintenance, especially with reference to the Bogue Road, and water problems, were also discussed. Councilors expressed concern that in some areas, residents were being forced to flee their houses because of crime and violence but that criminals were moving into the vacant properties and taking over.
Mayor of Montego Bay, Charles Sinclair expressed concern that persons were demanding services for water and electricity but were not co-operating with the payments of property taxes. He has called for quarterly meetings with the stakeholders and the western division of the Office of the Prime Minister.