Following a congressional committee study, the Government in Puerto Rico is considering closing all slot parlours on the island as it looks for more power when it comes to inspecting illegal gaming facilities. The committee has also called for a ban on online gaming.
In February 2013 the government initiated an investigation into the casino industry after a number of casino closures. The investigation was charged with looking into the growth of slot parlours on the island. According to Puerto Rico gaming law slot machines are only permitted in casinos attached to hotels and revenue generated by casinos is a vital source of funding for the Ministry of Tourism and the state run University. However, revenue has been down due to the proliferation of slot parlours and it is estimated that there are now 45,000 illegal slot machines on the island.
According to statistics released by the Committee in the financial year 2011-2012 the Ministry of Tourism received US$73,832,313 in gaming tax revenue and lost US$1.9 million between March and December due to the closures of the casino in the Conquistador Resort, the casino in the Grand Meliá hotel and the casino in the Pichi’s Convention Center. With these closures 500 people lost their jobs. Furthermore, according to statistics published by Spectrum Gaming Group on behalf of The Ministry of Tourism if illegal gaming on the island were to be eliminated casino revenue would increase by as much as 58 per cent with casinos such as the Conrad San Juan Condado Plaza benefiting.
The issue has become increasingly divisive of late as in March a number of hotel and casino workers from several hotels met with lawmakers to express their concern over the possible legalisation of slot parlours. In a controversial move a number of Senators had proposed granting licences to slot parlours to meet the shortfall in pensions for state workers. President of the Puerto Rican Hotel and Tourism Association, Ismael Vega claimed in a press conference before the demonstration that the legalisation of slot parlours in Puerto Rico would have dealt a “mortal blow” to the tourism industry. The committee’s recommendations are positive news for the struggling casino industry in Puerto Rico which has also been affected by the world economic crisis and a decrease in tourists visiting the island.