Jamaica’s recent approval of gaming is evidence that perhaps any Caribbean island could succumb to the temptation of the millions upon millions of tourism dollars casinos can bring to a country. But as one of the most impoverished destinations in the Caribbean, the decision had to be made.
For years, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic have been perhaps the poorest destinations in the Caribbean. The Dominican Republic continues to build new casinos, with the latest coming in December in the form of Casino Dominicus, which Travel Agent had the privilege of visiting in March. So it only made sense that Jamaica would have them, too. After all, casinos are practical vacuums that slurp up foreign dollars and havens for tourists looking to throw away their pocket money and “invest” in the country. But for years Jamaica has been defiant in its decision not to take part in gaming ventures because of strict laws that forbade it. But as the country’s economic woes continue year after year, despite the destination’s successful tourism rate, something eventually had to give. And it finally did on April 22, as Jamaica became the latest Caribbean island to approve gambling. Agreements with two investors have already been approved: Tavistock Group, which is developing Harmony Cove, a 4,500-room, $5 billion upscale project, will offer gaming, as will the Palmyra Resort and Spa. Jamaica’s decision is now the most concrete evidence that no island can go forever without a casino, especially when surrounding islands are welcoming news ones every year. In Mexico, the entire country forbids casinos. But if a casino popped up in the Riviera Maya, you can bet your vacation money you’d seen one in Los Cabos soon after. And that is why the chain reaction in the Caribbean will go on until every island has some form of a casino, whether it’s a stand-alone casino or one inside a hotel. The last holdout to come around before Jamaica was St. Lucia, which saw a seven-year debate between the Church and the government finally end with the approval of gaming at the end of last year. The first casino in St. Lucia is slated to be built as early as 2009.