By Linda Straker
ST. GEORGE’S, Grenada, CMC – The Grenada parliament, late last week Thursday night, approved legislation allowing for some establishments on the island to be engaged in casino gambling.
The Casino and Gaming Bill 2014 provides for the owners of hotels with more than 300 rooms to apply for a license to operate a casino as part of the entertainment offerings for guests on the compound.
The bill was piloted by Planning and Economic Affairs Minister Oliver Joseph, who said that the legislation was drafted following a review of the impact of casino gambling on other Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries.
Tourism Minister Alexandria Otway-Noel said that Grenada stands to benefit significantly from the passage of the legislation, noting it would enhance the island’s tourism product.
“This Bill will help us to do what God wants us to do…our tourism sector demands more entertainment. We have the opportunity now to re-design our tourism sector so that it can bring great benefits to our people.”
Joseph told legislators, the intention of the legislation is to provide casino entertainment to satisfy the demands of visitors and that the legislation is clear in that all casino facilities must be attached to an operating hotel.
“The casino must be on the premises, you cannot have the hotel in one location like St George and the casino in St David,” he told legislators, adding that there were strict laws governing the establishment of the casinos here.
“No person under 18 or locals will be able to go into a casino to participate in the activities,” he said, even as one government legislator, Tobias Clement, said the measure was a contravention of the human rights of nationals.
“That section of the Bill appears to be giving more rights to the visitor than a local with regards to gambling rights, as it is restricting their movement and right to assembly. You cannot tell people how to spend their money,” he said, urging Parliament to carefully review the legislation.
Under the legislation, Grenadians would be fined EC$10,000 (One EC dollar =US$0.37 cents) if they are convicted of gambling at the casinos. The same fines apply to underage persons.
Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell had objected to the original fine of EC$100,000 saying “this is ridiculously too high.”
The Grenada Parliament is controlled by the Keith Mitchell administration after it won all 15 seats in the February 2013 general election.
Education Minister Anthony Boatswain said that he was supporting the legislation, and that nationals should not fear the introduction of casino gambling here.
“With good legislation back up by good regulation, our people should have nothing to fear.”
The bill now goes before the Senate for debate.