Remembering Richard Salm’s Dream – Jamaica Observer


SALM… co-founded the Royal Decameron Club Caribbean resort

Hotelier Richard Salm, who recently passed away, was a naturalized Jamaican who envisioned the development of a historic integrated resort that offered casino gaming on the sprawling grounds of Drax Hall in St Ann.

He and his partners were behind Casino Royale Limited, one of four entities that applied for Approved Integrated Resort Development (AIRD) status when the Jamaican government opened and accepted bids for the project, a gateway to casino operations, in 2013.

Jamaica’s Casino Gaming Act, in its earliest form, offered three casino licenses under legislation passed in 2010 and regulations passed in 2012. Investors first had to qualify for AIRD status, which was a development order issued by the Ministry of Finance and Planning.

The AIRD would then qualify applicants to apply to the Casino Gaming Commission for a casino license, but this was not a guarantee that a license would be issued.

Like the other applicants, Salm paid the US$150,000 application fee to Casino Royale Limited, one of four bidders to develop casinos under the Integrated Resort Development (IRD) project.

Casino Royale, backed by Salm’s by Drax Hall Limited, was planned for the Drax Hall property in St Ann. Salm was in partnership with American investor Phillip Reynolds.

Salm said in a 2013 disclosure that he and his partner had secured a commitment of $500 million of the estimated $1.5 billion needed for development and were in negotiations for the rest.

The Drax Hall development, he said then, would include a large hotel-casino, 16 acres for a shopping complex and areas designated for timeshare, lots of detached villas, middle-income housing and a possible marina. .

The other bidders were Amaterra Jamaica Limited, proposed by Jamaican developer Keith Russell and his American partner Charles Murphy III of Arkansas; Celebration Jamaica Development Limited and the government’s own bidder, Harmony Cove Limited, which was a partnership between Harmonization (a partnership between the Development Bank of Jamaica Limited and the National Housing Trust) and Tavistock International Investment Group.

Two years later, when the review process was completed in 2015, applicants Harmony Cove Limited and Celebration Jamaica Development Limited were the entities that obtained approval to develop Jamaica’s first two casinos.

Celebration Jamaica, led by developer Robert Trotta (also now deceased), planned to invest US$450 million in the first phase to develop 1,000 hotel rooms, a 75,000 square foot Casino & Sports Book complex ; bars, restaurants, health club, spa and kids club, retail space and artisan village. The resort was to be located in Montego Bay.

Harmony Cove, the venture between investors Tavistock Group and Harmonisation, was to be developed on 2,200 acres of land in Trelawny. The first phase of Harmony Cove was to include the development of a 1,000 room hotel, championship golf course and casino facilities. The cost of this phase was last estimated at US$900 million.

However, the two companies failed to move the project forward.

In 2021, the Jamaican government enacted new amendments to casino legislation that reduced the room capacity requirement for the AIRD from 2,000 hotel rooms to 1,000 and introduced a minimum capital investment of 500 million US dollars.

The new provisions should facilitate the task of investors who, in more than a decade of negotiations with the government, have not started their operations. In a presentation earlier in 2021, Senator Don Wehby said four entities were interested in licensing the casino. Their names have not been released, so it is unclear if these are the same entities now expressing interest.

In March this year, Finance and Civil Service Minister Dr Nigel Clarke said the government was seeking to identify resources to fund its US$25 million capital contribution to the Harmony Cove tourism development project. in Trelawny, in order to facilitate the start of the project. .

Speaking at a finance standing committee, Clarke said: ‘As long as Tavistock is ready to go, we will find a way to fulfill our part. We believe we have a pathway by which this can be achieved…but we want it to be done transparently. We are therefore examining how the government can cope with its contribution,” said the Minister of Finance.

Clarke said the Harmony Cove project is a 50-50 venture into which each partner will inject US$25 million, or about J$3.5 billion.

“Besides that [there will be] equity investments from other institutional investors and loans… from these proceeds the project will be built,” he said.

Harmony Cove is a 2,300 acre property located 23 miles east of Montego Bay, St James, and 44 miles west of Ocho Rios, St Ann. It is expected to include world-class golf courses, luxury spa, marina facilities, commercial developments, luxury hotels, private residences and other amenities.

It is also expected to include a hotel, casino, convention and entertainment centers, restaurants and retail outlets, and is expected to cost some US$7.5 billion.

The Jamaica Observer reached out to Harmonization CEO Dr. Lorna Simmonds for comment, but received none. Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke was also invited to provide an update.

The global casino gaming industry was valued at US$457.5 billion in 2019. Most of the industry goes to casinos, which account for US$144.6 billion.


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