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Jamaica wooing casino investors
KINGSTON—Finance Minister Audley Shaw says with legislation being crafted to support interactive and online gaming, Jamaica’s betting, gaming and lotteries sectors are positioned for growth.
Shaw, who was addressing the 7th Caribbean Gaming Show and Summit earlier this week, noted that the casino segment of the industry has not only been picking up momentum, but is now actively courting new investors.
“Since last year, the Casino Commission has met with two large international investors, which are now advanced in the preparation of their applications for Integrated Resource Development status.
“With these developments, there is a lot of optimism for the growth potential of the gaming sector,” Shaw said.
He said that for the 2016/2017 fiscal year, the gaming sector recorded J$111.25 billion (One Jamaica dollar =US$0.008 cents) in revenues, compared with J$91.9 billion in 2015/16, representing a 21 per cent increase in revenue performance.
He said the lottery segment posted J$36.8 billion in 2016/17, or J$1.9 billion over the J$34.9 billion of the previous year, while the betting segment recorded a 12 per cent growth over the J$8.9 billion of the previous year to close at J$10.04 billion.
“While we are encouraged by the enormity of these numbers, we recognise, however, that unscrupulous individuals would want to tap these revenues to fund their illegal activities.
“This is why the government, through the regulator, increased its surveillance of the industry, and will extend all the resources necessary to clamp down on illegal gaming. There is still a lot of work to be done to increase the level of compliance in the industry, but I am sure, having witnessed the fallout of de-risking themselves, operators are now taking steps to improve their own mechanisms to this end,” Shaw said.
He further noted that, as the oversight body, the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Commission (BGLC) has forged memoranda of understanding with law-enforcement authorities to have financial intelligence shared in real time.
“This is a major step in the fight against illicit gaming. We must have eyes and ears on the ground providing information on which the authorities can act speedily,” Shaw added.
He noted that “reports indicate that illegal gambling operations are raking in an estimated two billion dollars each year. A big chunk of that money is used to fund the criminal underworld”.
Shaw said that as industry stakeholders, “we must band together to stamp out this phenomenon.
“It robs governments of revenues and curtails the activities of lawful entities, when they are forced to invest significant sums to bolster their internal mechanisms,” Shaw said.
“I must laud the enforcement arm of the BGLC for its efforts in this regard, which saw a 132 per cent increase in the number of operations it carried out for fiscal year 2016/17. There were 26 arrests for the year compared with 16 in the previous year, with J$240, 000 paid over in court fines by unauthorised individuals,” he said.
Shaw said that the government recognises that there is a lot more work to be done and will continue to support the efforts of the regulator.