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Puerto Rico – Route operators take gaming commission to court

By - 19 September 2022

Route operators have taken the Puerto Rico Gaming Commission (CJPR) to court, alleging that the license renewal process has generated “administrative chaos.”

The 16 plaintiffs demand that “all procedures related to (the) collection and renewal of licenses for route operators gaming machines” be suspended, in relation to the process that had a deadline of September 30. The plaintiffs state that the commission lacks personnel, has failed to carry out inspections and had been acting inefficiently.

“Almost four years after Law 11 entered into force, the Commission does not have (1) a Regulation for Adjudicative Procedures, (2) a Regulation for the Confiscation of Illegal Machines, (3) nor a procedure to enforce the payment of fines that are imposed. It is evident that there is a pattern of the Commission not complying with the provisions of Law 11, as amended,” they stated.

Through an Administrative Order issued on August 26 this year, the regulator began the process of renewing the permits that will expire on September 30 and, at the same time, announced that it would collect the pending debts of route operators for the licenses of 2021-2022.

“We urge all owners of route gaming machines to begin the procedures for the renewal of licenses,” said the executive director Javier Rivera Emmanuelli adding that the process was aimed at “protecting and legalizing the operations of machines in commercial establishments and removing illegal machines from the streets.”

In addition, according to the official the process was approved by the Board of Commissioners and “addresses the concerns that various components of the industry have raised, while the CJPR continues with its supervisory role in favour of responsible operators, players and citizens.”

The administrative procedure to update the licenses is contained in an Administrative Order, issued on August 26 by the Board of Commissioners, the governing body of the Gaming Commission.

Regulation 9175 allowed the granting of the first hundred licenses to operators of route machines. These will be connected to a government controlled sever

In 2021, the Commission issued, for the first time, around one hundred licenses, under Acts 81 of 2019 and 11 of 1933, as amended. The latter legalized the entry into operation of betting machines outside casinos, and established a charge of US$1,500 dollars per license per machine. As the renewal date approaches, there is a group of route operators that still have payment balances for the operating rights for the year 2021-2022.

The legalisation of slots outside casinos has been complex and drawn out. In November 2018 lawmakers finally approved legislation that would reform the activity around slot machines and video lottery terminals outside of casinos.

In February 2019 the Puerto Rico Tourism Company finally established the rules over slots outside of casinos. The number of slot machines was limited to 10 per establishment, but route operators are now able to operate between 100 and 250 slots under a single name in different locations. The machines are not allowed to be the primary source of income for the business, and can not be placed outside the establishment. The regulation establishes that the prizes for players have a limit of US$1,000. In October 2020 the Department for Economic Development and Commerce confirmed that the regulations had come into effect.

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