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Argentina – Unions reject closures and new tender for Buenos Aires

By - 15 January 2018

Unions have joined forces to protest against the closure of three gaming halls in the province of Buenos Aires.

Members from The Association of Management and Maintenance Services for Casinos (AMS) alongside workers belonging to the Association of Employees of National Casinos (AECN) have rejected the provincial government’s decision to close the gaming halls as they considered the measure by the government as a manoeuvre to hand over gaming to “friends in power”. The General Secretary of the AECN , Daniel Méndez expressed his doubts when it came to the real intentions behind the announcement made by Governor María Eugenia Vidal last week.

“If we are talking about gambling addiction, the province has 12 casinos and 46 bingo halls. We are closing three casinos and a bingo hall . . . we are regulated, we operate in tourist areas, we are not located in Greater Buenos Aires,” explained Méndez during a press conference held in the emblematic Central Casino in Mar del Plata.

“They assure us that jobs are not at risk, but we know how these things begin,” he said before listing the harm which could be caused by the elimination of the gaming halls in the province. “The workers will have to travel, many times at night, 80 or 100 kilometres to go to work where they are relocated.” The union leader said that workers were convinced that it was a way “to burn them out” so that they would have to look for work elsewhere.

In relation to the newly announced slot machine tender, Roberto Páez, head of the AMS hinted that the new winner was a foregone conclusion and would be granted to Boca Juniors football club President Daniel Angelici and close friend of President Mauricio Macri. Angelici’s gaming operations Bingo Ramallo SA, World Games SA (which in turn controls a bingo hall in Pergamino in Buenos Aires province and has interests in Brazil) and Desarrollos Maipú SA (which has a casino in Mendoza) were declared exempt from tax by a high court judge last month. The ruling means that Angelici could save at least $14m in taxes on his gaming businesses.

However, Vidal earlier this week strongly denied that Angelici would be part of the tender for the provincial gaming halls and would not put his name forward.

Last week Vidal announced that she would cancel the casino licences of Mar de Ajó, Valeria del Mar and Necochea, as well as the bingo hall in the city of Temperley in order to reduce gaming. Those affected by the closures will be relocated. The seven casinos that will be part of the new tender will be the Casino Central in Mar del Plata, as well as the casinos in the cities of Monte Hermoso, Pinamar, the Trilenium casino in Tigre (one of the largest casinos in the region), as well as the state owned casinos in the cities of Miramar, Tandil and the Hermitage casino, also located in Mar del Plata. Casino licences will be valid for twenty years and the wining bidders are expected to be announced in May. Meanwhile the Hotel Sasso and the Casino de Sierra de la Ventana will not be tendered because they still have valid licenses.

Speaking to local daily La Nacion Vidal said that gambling should be limited. “We do not believe that there should be such a large gambling offer in the province, in the next two years, as we balance public accounts, our intention is to continue restricting the gaming offer,” she said.

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