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Argentina – Protests in Buenos Aires as five bingo halls close

By - 29 April 2016

Bingo hall workers have staged a protest in front of the Presidential residence in Buenos Aires to protest against the closure of five bingo halls.

Around 200 members of The Union of Gaming Workers (ALEARA) took part in the demonstration to protest against President Mauricio Macri’s decision not to allow bingo halls to remain open once their licenses expire. An injunction, which had allowed them to remain open, runs out after operators declared themselves bankrupt. Owners have claimed that they will be unable to pay unemployment compensation to their employees.

Union Secretary Ariel Fassione said: “We demand that if the decision is to close the bingo halls that people are compensated accordingly. Now the state is letting people go without work.”

The workers are demanding that the President and the National Lottery allow the bingo halls to remain open for a further five months so that they may generate enough income to pay workers compensation which they say is due to them.

Fassione explained that: “About 500 families could be without work from Friday if the judge does not hold up the injunction that she issued last year, and our work companions have asked us to go straight to who we understand has maximum responsibility – the President. We are asking for continued employment and compensation. If there is so much resolve when it comes to the closures of the bingo halls in the capital we want the same political willingness to bring in money for compensation and for jobs,” said the union leader.

The workers were employed by bingo halls located in the neighborhoods of Belgrano, Congreso, Flores, Caballito, and on Lavalle Street located in downtown Buenos Aires. Last weekend workers staged a protest live on air as they interrupted a television talk show.

In June 2014 The National Lottery warned the five bingo halls operating in the capital that they must pay a total of $130m pesos in back taxes and be prepared to lose their licences once they expired. It was originally believed that the back taxes would be overlooked as part of an agreement with the Lottery in order to save jobs. However, the owners of the bingo halls were warned that a new licensing process would begin in 2015 for all the bingo halls in the city once their licences expired. The contract for the bingo halls was first granted in 2007 for ten years although the remaining three years of the contract depends on permission being granted to them from the National Lottery.

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