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Puerto Rico – Hotels fight Puerto Rican Government over VLTs

By - 4 August 2015

The Association of Hotels and Tourism of Puerto Rico (PRHTA) has filed a motion with a court to contest new regulations which would allow for video lotteries (VLT’s).

The government is hoping to gain up to US$400m a year the new act which was approved last week in a controversial move by Finance Minister Juan Zaragoza. Puerto Rico’s Treasury Department will begin the tender process for (VLT’s) in the first quarter of 2016.

But Head of the PRHTA reacted angrily to the move saying that the new act puts the entire tourism industry in danger and vowed to fight the new regulations in the court.

He said: “Today we continue our efforts to defend the tourism industry in Puerto Rico. Enough is enough. Enough damage has already been done to the industry and we have to put a stop to it.”
According to Mr. Vega, new regulations go against a number of laws in Puerto Rico which specifically ban gaming machines outside of casinos. In addition the treasury department does not have the authority to regulate gaming and authorise new types of gaming. VLT’s, also according to Mr. Vega, fail to meet a number of legal requirements as enshrined in local gaming laws due to their game design.

Mr. Vega also pointed to the results of a study carried out by local research firm Spectrum, which indicated that should VLT’s be legalised then it would cause revenue losses in gaming machines in casinos of US$68.4m to US148.8m a year and cause losses of up to U$S60m for the Education Fund of the University of Puerto Rico. Meanwhile, Puerto Rico’s General Fund would lose up to US$9m a year on slot machines alone while the Tourism Board of Puerto Rico (PRTC) could lose up to U$S23m a year. The casino industry 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.

He also pointed out that the casino in Condado Plaza Hotel in San Juan closed its doors last month, prompting the dismissal of 150 people, “which means the closure of four casinos in ten months when added to the closure of the Embassy of Dorado casino in September 2014 and the Radisson Ambassador in March 2015 . . . This scenario in conjunction with video lottery terminals would mean the extinction of the casino industry and tourism in Puerto Rico. If these matters are not attended to urgently and the immediate seizure of illegal slot machines is begun then it will put at risk more than 70,000 jobs generated by tourism.”

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