The Condado Plaza Hilton, one of Puerto Rico’s biggest casinos, closed last week after long-lasting economic struggles. The closure, and subsequent layoff of 144 people, came after a 40-percent drop in slot machine use over the past ten years.
The 24-hour casino opened in 1975 and will most likely be turned into an event space, managing director Raul Bustamente told The Associated Press.
The Hilton in San Juan is one of seven casinos to have sold in the last five years. The nation is currently approaching a decade of economic downturn and experiencing an unemployment rate of over 12 percent.
Puerto Rico is entering its ninth year of financial crisis, stemming from government debt. The island has more than $70 billion in debt and the government’s debt was downgraded to a non-investment grade in 2014.
The Puerto Rico Tourism Company (PRTC) pulls most of its revenue from gambling taxes and a portion of that revenue is also given to the public University of Puerto Rico.
In 2013, PRTC’s Gambling Division lobbied to amend the 500-page regulatory document for casinos, as recovering even a fraction of the money lost to illegal gambling facilities would go far in reducing the territory’s debts.
Illegal gambling halls have substantially affected the revenue of the highly-regulated industry, keeping roughly $200 million from the government annually. The Associated Press estimated the government earns $156 million each year from gambling revenue.
The majority of non-problem gamblers in Puerto Rico are locals rather than tourists, almost 97-percent according to a report to the Puerto Rican Treasury Department by Gemini Research, and the government believes directing these citizens away from illegal gambling facilities is one way to increase revenue to the government.
There are currently 20 casinos open on the island, including those operated by Sheraton and Marriott.
(Photo credit: vxla (Flickr), Creative Commons.)
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