The President of the Commission for the Development of the Tourism Industry in the House of Representatives, Ángel García Matos has announced that a raft of new games could soon be introduced into casinos so that casinos in Puerto Rico can remain competitive.
In written statements, in which he also announced that the casino in the Mayagüez Resort Hotel would remain open, Mr. Matos emphasised that new up to date regulations were needed for the industry.
“Last week I personally visited and held a meeting with the owner, who told us first hand of the challenges facing the casino when it comes to maintaining a 24-hour operation,” he said. He went onto to say that the new casino will, thanks to recent efforts made by the management, no longer have to lay off 90 employees, which had seemed imminent due a fall in visitor numbers.
Comparing the current situation to the United States from which Puerto Rico derives the bulk of its tourists he said: “The casino industry in the United States is undoubtedly going through difficult times and Puerto Rico is no exception. This administration is going the extra mile to ensure that jobs in this sector are protected and that we have a strong and vibrant tourism industry.”
Although there are no details as yet as to exactly what new games will be introduced Mr. Matos also said that operators would be invited to come forward with suggestions to the government.
The casino industry in Puerto Rico is currently facing an increasingly difficult situation due to the growth of illegal gaming. Puerto Rico attracted 4.2 million visitors in 2013 and 4 million visitors in 2011 and casinos are a vital source of funding for the Tourism Ministry and the State University on the island.
However, it is estimated that there are now 45,000 illegal slot machines with the government seeming unwilling or unable to act on the issue. In February 2013 the government initiated an investigation into illegal gaming after a number of casino closures including the closure of the landmark El Conquistador casino which left 150 people jobless.
Lawmakers have been divided as to how to solve the issue with some calling for an outright ban while a number of Senators have proposed granting licences to slot parlours in order to meet the shortfall in pensions for state workers.