NEW YORK CITY– Travel Agent was on location at the Jamaican American Chamber of Commerce’s Hurricane Relief Fundraiser Monday where we were able to get a few minutes to sit down with the country’s prime minister, the Hon. Bruce Golding.
Since we were pressed for time, we figured we’d get right to the point and ask him what the current status of gaming is in the country since the destination had tentatively approved casino licenses for two developers— pending a ruling by the legislature— but has been hush-hush on further details ever since the initial approval was announced. Golding told us that the decision is expected to come this November. He also told Travel Agent that there will in fact be a cap on how many licenses the country will hand out, but that number has yet to be determined. He said Jamaica was contemplating tracking the success of the two developers who have been approved before additional licenses will be handed out, but that decision hasn’t been finalized yet either.
When we asked him if the decision to approve casinos was a direct response to competition out of the Bahamas, Golding told us, “The market is big enough for there to be more than one player in the gaming industry. I think we can all share a little bit of it.”
Before we chatted with Golding one-on-one, he addressed a room full of travel industry representatives and tackled some unpopular topics of discussion such as safety and poverty in Jamaica. As far as the safety issue goes, Golding admitted that Jamaica “has a serious crime problem.”
“Some people back home said not talk about that," he said, noting that he’d rather be straightforward and didn’t want to dodge the issue. He said the destination is continuing efforts to decrease the crime rate, including bulking the country’s police force. Golding also said he is “sick of hearing” people describe Jamaica as being among the most impoverished countries in the world. He urged countries like the U.S. to fix that view by investing more in Jamaica. Golding’s point was that if countries like the U.S. can create more jobs in Jamaica, more Jamaicans will have money to spend within and outside of the country.