Jamaica’s finance minister says the island nation is forging ahead with plans to regulate online gambling to keep abreast with the changing pace of technology.
Last week, Jamaica’s Finance Minister Audley Shaw (pictured) gave the keynote address at the 7th Caribbean Gaming Show and Summit, which was hosted by the Betting Gaming and Lotteries Commission (BGLC) in Montego Bay.
Shaw announced that the BGLC was “in the process of drafting legislation establishing a licensing regime as well as regulatory supervision for operators of interactive gambling.” Shaw said the government had decided to “fast track” this legislation due to the rapid pace of technological change and “the need to facilitate the growth” of the local gambling industry.
Shaw also announced that the country’s three state gaming bodies – the BGLC and the racing and casino regulators – would be merged into a new all-powerful body called the Jamaica Gaming Commission (JGC). The merger is expected to be finalized by the end of 2017 and the online gambling regulations are expected to precede the merger. Until the merger, the BGLC will oversee online activity.
Over three years ago, Jamaican legislators amended the country’s Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Act to allow local lottery, sportsbook and race betting operators like Caymanas Track Limited to offer their wares via telephone and text messages.
The additional sales channel has been good for local betting operators, who reported total sales of J$10b (US $77.5m) in fiscal 2016-17, up 12% from the previous year. Jamaica’s gaming sector revenue grew 21% to US$861m in 2016-17, while the lottery sector improved 5.4% to US$285m.
Shaw said that Jamaica’s gaming industry continues to attract outside interest, as two “large international investors” had recently met with the local Casino Commission ahead of filing applications for Integrated Resource Development status. Shaw said there was “a lot of optimism for the growth potential” of Jamaica’s casino industry.
Shaw also credited the BGLC for stepping up its enforcement game, pointing to the 132% increase in arrests for gaming law violations in 2016-17. The BGLC has signed memoranda of understanding with law enforcement agencies for the real-time sharing of financial information, which Shaw called “a major step in the fight against illicit gaming,” the value of which he estimated at J$2b per year.