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Puerto Rico – Condado Plaza closes casino in Puerto Rico

By - 24 July 2015

The casino in the Condado Plaza Hotel in San Juan closed its doors Wednesday, prompting the dismissal of 150 people.

Executive director of the Tourism Company (Puerto Rica’s tourist Board), Ingrid Rivera Rocafort, said a contingency plan that includes helping employees who had been laid off had now been put into effect.
The closure is just the last in long list of recent closures – the latest being the Radisson Ambassador which closed in May. With the closure of the Condado Plaza there are now only 20 casinos left in the country.

President of the Union of Workers in the Catering Industry of Puerto Rico, Jason Rivera blamed the government for the closure of the casino saying that the government had not done enough to stop the growth of illegal gaming on the island.

“Once again, workers in the tourism sector have suffered a blow as a result of the irresponsibility of the government,” he said and went on to say that the job losses were a direct consequence of the government’s inaction when it came to proliferation of slot machines outside of casinos . He also underlined the fact that the government is now in the process of legalising VLT’s in order to generate more revenue to the treasury.

This could have devastating effect on the casino industry which is a major contributor to the Tourism Board as well as the only State University on the island. Resources made from the casino industry have diminished from US$315m in the years between 2007 to 2008 to US$272m during the last fiscal year.
In February 2013 the government initiated an investigation into illegal gaming. It is estimated that there are now 45,000 illegal slot machines located as attachments to small businesses.

While the Director of Tourism attributed the closure to administrators of the Condado Plaza Hotel, she said that the casino industry in Puerto Rico faced “great challenges” and said the agency has strengthened the oversight of slot machines operating illegally on the island. To that end, she announced that the board had hired member of the Bureau of Special Investigations (NIE) to intervene with those businesses that are found to be operating in disregard to provisions of Law 77-2014, which prohibits such games from operating in small businesses.

President of the Association of Hotels and Tourism of Puerto Rico (PRHTA), Ismael Vega meanwhile said that the recent closure proves predictions made by the PRHTA in the past were right and that if something is not done quickly than it could lead to the end of the casino industry “and with it the destruction of the entire tourism industry in Puerto Rico.”

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