When people think about Jamaica, they picture rastafarians, reggae music, Bob Marley, mountains, rainforests, all-inclusive resorts, reef-lined beaches, British-colonial architecture, and diving and snorkeling sites. Little known is the gambling industry of the Caribbean island nation. Let’s dive into the whole enchilada of Jamaican casinos and gambling.
From the United Kingdom, Jamaica gained her independence in 1962. With a population below three million, Jamaica survived the hard times with tourism and mining activities. Those two industries greatly contributed to the economy of Jamaica. At the time, more than one million tourists visited the Central American country every year to explore the country’s rich culture and nature.
Before 2012, the Gambling Law of 1899 was in use in Jamaica. The law was strict and contained certainly odd restrictions. For one, the law considered cock-fighting as an unlawful gambling activity. In fact, Jamaicans were not allowed to place wagers in any place of public access. Also, the law stated that each party participating in a wagering contract must either win or lose — no neutral ground.
Slots were the only form of gambling at that time, and slot machines were allowed in specially permitted resorts exclusively. However, games such as video poker, craps, blackjack, and — especially — Caribbean Stud Poker made their way to the scene without any prosecution. Knutsford Park in Saint Andrew was one of the few places where horse racing bets were placed at that time.
Somewhere between the 1950s and 1960s saw gambling businesses grow exponentially in Jamaica despite the laws of the island. That same period, gambling activities of foreign countries (the United Kingdom and the United States) were circulating in the Caribbean island nation. Football pools became extremely popular throughout the length and breadth of the island. In 1975, the BGCL (Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Commission) was created as a body of the Ministry of Finance to license and regulate gambling facilities and activities.
Further, the Gambling Law of 1989 was still in use until 2012, when the administration of the then-Prime Minister of Jamaica, Portia Simpson-Miller, set up the Betting Commission and Lotteries Act. The act was introduced in 2010 but had to fight opposition from many religious organizations until it was eventually passed in November of 2012.
Since then, the commission has been waging war on illegal gambling activities in the country and keeping gambling facilities in order. Today, gambling is a norm and lucrative industry in Jamaica.
Although gambling was somewhat perplexing for a long period, gambling is legal in Jamaica today. In fact, Jamaica now offers a total of 22 gambling facilities (plus one national lottery) to residents and tourists. The BGLC (Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Commission) is behind anything related to gambling in Jamaica. So, gambling investors reach out to the body for licences and proper regulations. Once done, most forms of gambling activities are legal.
The total number of 22 casinos are unevenly spread throughout nine Jamaican areas. Most are located in Kingston — the capital of Jamaica — and Montego Bay — one of the most visited cities in Jamaica.
In Monte Bay, the largest casino according to equipment is the Holiday Inn Resort Casino Montego Bay, which has 50+ table games. According to space, however, the largest casino is the Celebration Jamaica Resort & Casino, with 100,000 square feet. Celebration Jamaica Resort & Casino is still under development, so it is not included in the list of all casinos in Jamaica.
According to equipment and space, the largest casino in Kingston is Monte Carlo Gaming Lounge at The Terra Nova All Suite Hotel, with 150+ gaming machines and 8,000 square feet.
Most types of gambling activities and facilities known to man can be found in Jamaica. With attention tilted towards traditional casinos, race tracks, racinos, and sports betting shops also get their fair share.
Most Jamaican casinos offer a wide range of games and machines, partly because they are mostly attached to big hotels. The most popular casino games and machines in Jamaica include slot machines, blackjack, roulette, poker, craps, baccarat, and table games. However, slot machines are the most popular gambling option in Jamaican casinos.
Online gambling, on the other side, is legal but for tourists and visitors exclusively. So, it is illegal for Jamaican natives to participate in any form of online gambling ranging from bingo and poker to sports betting and lottery. As expected, Jamaican natives can participate on foreign online gambling sites.
As for offline gambling, all forms of gambling are legal. Jamaica has a national lottery called the Supreme Ventures, where traditional Lotto, Cash Pot, Super Lotto, and other lottery games are legally played.
Below is a list of all casinos currently operating in the regions of Jamaica.
Acropolis – Barbican
Acropolis – Cross Roads
Casino Reno Gaming
ClubHotel Riu Ocho Rios
Grand Bahia Principe Jamaica
Grand Palladium Resort and Casino
Hedonism II Resort
Holiday Inn Resort Montego Bay
Hotel Riu Montego Bay
Hotel Riu Palace Tropical Bay
Jamaica Pegasus Hotel & Derby Rooms
Sunscape Splash Montego Bay
The Macau Gaming Lounge and Bar
The Terra Nova All Suite Hotel
Treasure Hunt Gaming
Vegas Gaming – Bogue
Vegas Gaming – Kingston
– The legal gambling age in Jamaica is 18 years, which is the same in most nations.
– The BGLC was originally created in 1975 but was reinforced in 2012 with help of the Betting Commission and Lotteries Act.
– The BGLC (Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Commission) is a body of the Ministry of Finance tasked with the licensing and regulation of gambling activities and facilities in Jamaica.
– There are 22 gambling facilities in Jamaica. Twenty are actual casinos while the remaining two are racetracks or racinos. Jamaica also offers a national lottery, which is not included in the list.
– Slot machines and Caribbean Stud Poker tables are the most popular options in Jamaica.
– Monte Carlo Gaming Lounge at The Terra Nova All Suite Hotel is currently the largest casino in the whole of Jamaica.
– Until 2012, cock-fighting was considered an illegal gambling activity.
– In 2012, an initial limit of three casinos per region was overruled.
– There is a tax rate of 15 percent on any lottery winning, burdened by the lottery operator.