Puerto Rico’s Plan To Allow Slot Machines Outside Casinos Criticised
The gambling industry on the island of Puerto Rico plays a vital role in generating revenue for the government in the form of gaming taxes, creating employment opportunities, boosting tourism and supporting a number of organizations through revenue sharing. The current organizations that are funded through gambling revenue include the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) which gets 45.45 percent; Puerto Rico Tourism Company (PRTC) which gets 25.8 percent, Treasury which receives 15.15 percent and the Committee for the Development of the Tourism Industry 13.6 percent.
The government of Puerto Rico has announced plans to authorize slot machines to operate outside of casino premises. It is expected that as many as 30,000 slot machines will be made available in places like hotels, bars and clubs which is expected to boost the overall gambling industry in the country.
However, the President of The Association of Hotels and Tourism of Puerto Rico isn’t very impressed with this decision. Pablo Torres said that this proposal has been made without carefully analysing the impact that such a move would have on the casino industry as well as on the organizations that receive support through casino revenues.
In a statement, Torres said
The lack of a serious and public evaluation of the proposal to legalise slots through public hearings, has led the legislative leaders and the Executive to propose many noble causes for the alleged funds that it would produce while ignoring the adverse fiscal impact that, according to a study by the government itself it would have
Torres estimates that the availability of 30,000 slot machines outside casino premises will cause combined losses between $149 million to $195 million each year. He estimates that this would negatively impact the PRTC by $42.5 million each year and the biggest university on the Island – UPR by $35.4 million per year.
Public Hearings Must Precede Decision
Opponents to this proposal want the government to set up public hearings and get feedback before moving forward with their decision. The current law does not allow for slot machines to operate outside casino premises but that law is not being followed.
Estimates suggest that there are close to 40,000 slot machines operating outside casino premises and these illegal slot machines account for nearly $1.5 billion in revenue. The government is hoping that by legalizing slot machines outside casino premises it will significantly reduce the illegal slot machine industry in Puerto Rico.