Famed for its sun and sea, sports and music, Jamaica is not currently considered a big gaming destination, with no licensed casinos in operation. The population is relatively small with fewer than three million people, however with about four million tourists visiting each year, the island nation is a viable market for gaming operators.
IAGR eNews spoke to Casino Gaming Commission’s Secretary/Manager, Audrey Robinson, about the changing face of Jamaica’s gaming industry, and how regulators are adapting to keep up.
Audrey started with the Casino Gaming Commission (CGC) in 2012 and has acted in a number of positions with the organisation until taking the role of Secretary/Manager (formerly known as CEO [Acting]) in October 2017.
The CGC is a fairly new regulator – established in 2010 to regulate and control casino gaming in Jamaica.
The CGC works closely with the Jamaican government on matters of general policy relating to casino gaming, and according to Audrey, having the opportunity to influence regulatory changes is what she most enjoys about her role.
Currently there are three regulators overseeing Jamaica’s gaming industry, but according to Audrey, this is set to change.
’There are three regulatory bodies in the gaming industry in Jamaica, namely The Casino Gaming Commission, The Betting Gaming & Lotteries Commission (BGLC) and the Jamaica Racing Commission,’ explains Audrey.
’All three bodies are to be merged to form one regulatory authority. Currently the harmonization of the legislation is being undertaken. This involves extensive reviews of the existing three legislations.’
Lotteries generate by far the most gaming revenue for the Caribbean country (JMD$13.3 billion or USD$ 98.7 million in the 2017–18), followed by slot machines (JMD$4.8 billion or USD$35.6 million), and finally, land based betting (JMD$2.4 billion or USD$17.8 million).
Minister for Tourism, Ed Hon. Edmund Bartlett, announced late last year that although Jamaica’s first casino is likely to open in 2020, the government has no plans to promote the island nation as a hub for casinos.
‘We do not see Jamaica ever becoming known as a casino destination, but rather a destination in which casino gaming is available,’ he said.
Audrey expects the consolidated regulatory approach to improve the ease of licensing casinos when they open in Jamaica.
According to Audrey, the biggest challenge faced by Jamaican regulators is the changing pace of technology which leaves the industry constantly trying to keep up.
’New games and equipment are introduced prior to legislation taking effect,’ explains Audrey.
’The time-consuming nature and tedious efforts for the passing of legislation will continue to keep regulators playing ”catch up”.’
As you may know, Jamaica is hosting IAGR2019 from September 30 to October 3.
Audrey, along with Jeanette Lewis from the BGLC, are working closely with IAGR to organise IAGR2019. Both have been hard at work securing a venue, organising social events and a range of other activities for the event.
With so much on, Audrey unwinds by ’taking out of town trips, exercising and watching cartoons’.
If you’d like to find out more about gaming regulation in Jamaica you can email Audrey at firstname.lastname@example.org.