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Mexico – US issues warning against Mexican casinos for second time

By - 25 January 2016

The US Department of State had warned US citizens about the risk of travelling to casinos and sports betting establishments for the second time due to the threats to safety and security “posed by organised criminal groups in the country.”

The warning states that the number of US citizens reported to the Department of State as murdered in Mexico rose from 100 in 2014 to 103 in 2015 and goes onto say that: “Gun battles between rival criminal organisations or with Mexican authorities have taken place in towns and cities in many parts of Mexico and have occurred in broad daylight on streets and in other public venues, such as restaurants and clubs.”

The statement singles out the gaming industry in particular and emphasises that of “particular safety concern are casinos, sports books, or other gambling establishments, and adult entertainment establishments.” US government personnel are specifically prohibited from visiting these establishments in the states of Coahuila, Durango, Zacatecas, Aguascalientes, San Luis Potosi, Nuevo Leon, Tamaulipas, Jalisco, Colima and Nayarit.

The State Department issued an almost identically worded statement in April last year which caused dismay amongst operators. Last year President of the Mexican Gaming Association (AIEJA) Miguel Angel Ochoa said that the safety of foreigners who attend casinos in Mexico was guaranteed due to a wide number of internal controls and protection measures which had been put in place since the attack on the Casino Royale in 2011. These include measures which prevent people from entering with firearms or sharp weapons and main doors are shielded to prevent any attempt to throw a bomb at the premises or intimidate the owners.

The Governor of Aguascalientes Carlos Lozano de la Torre said that the renewed travel alert was “misplaced” and added that the warning against visiting gambling establishments could have a negative effect on the upcoming Feria Nacional de San Marcos where a temporary gambling casino is licensed through the city for the duration of the three week long fair.

Meanwhile the President of the National Chamber of Commerce of Monclova, José María Gil de los Santos, joined entrepreneurs and government officials in rejecting the State Department warning saying that there had been no casinos or betting shops in the state of Coahuila for around three years which shows that there had been a “lack of information” when compiling the report.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs also questioned updating the travel alert in a statement, noting that these documents should include “accurate and contextual information” in order to be “to be useful and avoid generalisations.” The statement pointed out that more than 22m American nationals travelled to Mexico in 2015, and that from January to November last year more than 7.5m American tourists arrived by air, an increase of 14.2 per cent compared to the same period in 2014.

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