The Association of Hotels and Tourism of Puerto Rico (PRHTA) has expressed its strong opposition to a new bill that would legalise sports betting on professional and amateur leagues that take place both locally and internationally.
The President of the organisation Pablo Torres made the PRHTA’s position clear via a written presentation delivered to the Tourism and Social Welfare Committee of the House of Representatives, where he stated that law 1612, which would allow for the sports betting expansion, should not be considered without an economic impact study first.
The measure, authored by representative Nelson Alonso Vega, establishes that the Tourism Company of Puerto Rico “will have autonomy to develop, through regulation, all the processes and procedures of betting on sporting events, including all regulatory decisions and licenses.” The new measures are being considered in the Committees of Tourism and Social Welfare and Treasury and Budget as it seeks to amend the Law on Games of Chance in order to authorize casinos certified by the Tourism Company to place bets on sporting events. Vega argues that the taxes generated from bets would be directed to the retirement system of public servants and to help pay off the island’s debts.
However, Torres argues that the expanded offer could dilute the market and effect casino operations when bets are distributed amongst a number of different events. He also stressed that “as a general rule” the money that is generated from betting goes mostly to the sports leagues, which are mostly not Puerto Rican, so the winnings would not remain on the island. This aspect, he added, could affect the income projections that the initiative intends to produce.
However, the author of the new bill argues that new ways to generate additional tax income are vital. “This administration is aware that we must develop flexible measures to identify new revenues. The collection and distribution from the casino industry are of great importance as it nurtures both the private sector and the public. Increasing revenues in the industry in Puerto Rico is critical for the growth of the tourism sector of our Island,” he said.
Caption: The Association of Hotels and Tourism of Puerto Rico