by Kevin Stott | Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Goulding said Tuesday he has already given the go-ahead to a group of international investors who are planning the Caribbean island’s first casino.
Goulding told the parliament during a budget debate on Tuesday that he had green lit a deal for the first casino. Jamaica already has slot machines and other gaming devices in bars and hotels but, up until now, casinos have not been permitted on the island. The parliament in Jamaica will now consider the proposals which have some opposition in the nation.
"There are those who know I disagree with casino gambling," Goulding said to parliament. "But the fact is the horse bolted through the gate a long time ago with the granting of licenses for hundreds of gaming machines."
Churches and religious groups were outraged at the decision and said it was a "sad day" for Jamaica.
"We have always said that gambling, including casino gambling, is personally selfish, morally irresponsible and socially destructive," the Reverend Peter Garth, head of the Jamaican Association of Evangelicals, told the Jamaican Observer.
Goulding says casino gambling would be a viable industry and bring employment to Jamaica.
The prime minister said casino licenses would be granted on the condition that the investors commit at least $1.5 billion (USD) towards the project and that the hotel would have at least 1,000 rooms. He added that the casino component be no more than 20 percent of the total project.