Jamaica looks to legalise and regulate online gambling

By Caroline Watson
During the Caribbean Gaming Show and Summit, officials revealed that the Government of Jamaica is looking to fast-track the regulation of online gambling.

Governance stated that is wants to capitalise on the advancement of technology and the rapid growth of the iGaming sector.

Jamaican Minister of Finance and Public Service, Hon. Audley Shaw told members at the conference that Jamaica intends to offer these highly demanded services in a regulated and well-monitored environment.

Shaw said the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Commission is in the process of drafting regulations for a licensing regime as well as providing regulatory supervision for operators working in the interactive gaming industry.

Shaw ensured that the Government would implement the necessary measures to effectively prevent money laundering and the financing of criminal and illicit activities.

Shaw understood the concerns surrounding the proposed legislation, stating: “Even as we keep pace with developments, we are also mindful of the vulnerability of the industry to be used by criminals for money laundering.

“This concern is what gave rise to the de-risking initiatives of large banks that has spurred smaller firms to improve their own supervisory protocols.

“This is why the government, through the regulator, increased its surveillance of the industry, and will extend all the resources necessary to clamp down on illegal gaming.

“There is still a lot of work to be done to increase the level of compliance in the industry, but I am sure, having witnessed the fallout of de-risking themselves, operators are now taking steps to improve their own mechanisms to this end.”

Government officials hope the piece of legislation will be drawn-up and approved before the planned three-way merger of the country’s gambling regulators – the Betting Gaming and Lotteries Commission, the Jamaica Racing Commission, and the Casino Gaming Commission.

The three-way merger process is expected to be complete by the end of 2017 and would result in a single governing body known as the Jamaica Gaming Commission. The movement was initiated in a bid to improve the region’s monitoring capabilities of the industry.

Since 2014, Jamaica has been in the process of expanding its casino industry with the development of integrated resorts.

Shaw stated: “Since last year, the Casino Commission has met with two large international investors, which are now advanced in the preparation of their applications for Integrated Resource Development status. With these developments, there is a lot of optimism for the growth potential of the gaming sector.

Construction on the two resorts was originally supposed to begin in mid-2016. But due to a number of obstacles, construction of the two approved new resorts has yet to start.

Similarly to the expansion of the casino industry, the regulation of the online gambling market has been discussed, however little progress was made.

In 2014, the Ministry of Finance indicated that officials were considering the introduction of a new regulatory framework which would permit and regulate iGaming operators in the country.

Whilst the efforts made over three years ago failed, it does not seem that the notion has been completely ruled out. It will be interesting to see what Jamaica's gambling regulatory framework will look like this time next year.


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