The Casino Metro is marking its ninth year of operations at the Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel with a $1.6 million expansion that is already underway and should be ready by January 2019, this media outlet confirmed in an exclusive interview.
Ismael Vega, general manager of the casino, said the new space will be added to the existing 20,000 square feet, and will house nine new gaming tables and 41 slot machines. The addition will fill empty commercial space the hotel had available for leasing, Vega confirmed.
“It was set aside for retail operations. But this is the best use it can be given by square feet,” he said, adding the new space will feature a 16-large screen monitor wall where it will project sports and other events as part of its entertainment offering.
The expansion — the first since the casino opened in 2009 — will represent new full-time jobs, 45 in total, of which 30 will be croupiers. Casino Metro offers free gaming classes and offers jobs to participants immediately after they pass their exams, Vega said.
The new hires will push the casino’s total payroll to more than 200, while the new slot machines will join the 433 already on the floor. There will be a total of 27 gaming tables after the expansion is completed.
The Casino Metro will mark its anniversary with a gala event on Nov. 17, capping off a full week of activities, he said.
The party is part of the year-round events the Casino Metro hosts, along with marketing efforts that carry several millions in investments, which are proportionate to the casino’s revenues, he explained.
“It’s a viable business, but at the same time, because of the high investments we need to make, it doesn’t stop being a business that is vulnerable to [market] threats,” he said, referring partly to the controversial adult entertainment video slots that operate outside hotels.
Since its opening, the casino has broken its own records related to the number of coin-in plays at the slots in one day — more than 2.5 million — which is 25 percent above the average, Vega said. Puerto Rico has 16 casinos operating inside hotels throughout the island, a number that has dwindled in recent years, with the closing of several locations.
The Casino Metro has also shown growth in the year after Hurricane María bashed the island, producing the highest slot-machine related revenue in its history, in July 2018.
“After María, we’ve reinvented ourselves. Many clients that for some reason stopped coming to the casino, found themselves without a place to go for entertainment,” Vega said. “They began coming to the casino, which became an oasis.”
The Casino Metro reopened seven days after Hurricane María’s passage on Sept. 20, 2017, offering air conditioning, wi-fi, cold water and food, he said. Live concerts at its Metro Live stage and transmission of boxing bouts on its large screens also boosted clientele, he said.
“The trend was to close casinos, not to invest or dare to innovate. Despite the threats to the economy and other problems, I went the other way,” he said. “The same applies now — we have to bet on the fact that we’re the best, the most transparent, the best equipped. That we have the best facilities, the best service and that our clients will support us.”
Next year, the Casino Metro is poised to benefit from the opening of the District Live! complex currently under construction a few hundred meters from the Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel. District Live! will feature a variety of entertainment venues that will likely generate foot traffic for the casino, especially from tourists, he predicted.