The Puerto Rico Hotel and Tourism Association said this week it is “pleased” with the results of the final report for House Resolution 129 that ordered a study on the causes for casino closings on the island, which pointed to illegal slot machines as the cause.
“We are pleased about the results and recommendations found in the study because they validate the reasons that for years we have publicly voiced and it indicates that illegal slot machines outside [hotel casinos are the main cause for the closing of various casinos,” said PRHTA Chairman Ismael Vega.
The PRHTA has spent years lobbying against the proliferation of video slot machines, which have been popping up in shops, restaurants and other retail locations islandwide. The trade group claims their unregulated operation has “caused hundreds of layoffs” and undercut revenue that the Puerto Rico Tourism Company, the University of Puerto Rico and the Treasury Department collect from legal casino operations.
In the study, lawmakers concluded that gaming cannot be an economic alternative for the island and that it should be kept within the regulated environment of casinos, which in time will strengthen the tourism industry.
“We are hopeful the recommendations incorporated in the study will be carried out,” Vega said. “Finally, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. It is the first time that a legislative branch expresses itself so forcefully and recognizes the need to contain illegal gaming and to promote tourism.”
The tourism executive said the PRHTA expects that the study will set the course for legalizing video lottery, table gaming and poker activities in underprivileged communities. He also expressed optimism that the study would pave the way to create public policy on the importance of the casino sector as a source of income for the Tourism Company.