Puerto Rico has always evoked images of its picturesque beaches and its laid-back but beautiful culture. However, over the last couple of years, various forward thinkers have recognized another possible draw to the beautiful island- its growing gambling market.
Although the Puerto Rican market is one of the most sought-after, the gaming market is still relatively small and immature compared to more established ones. In 2019, the gross gaming revenue in Puerto Rico totalled a little under $300 million. But the market has grown by leaps and bounds since then.
Although the country has certainly dealt with numerous challenges that have made progress and economic stability elusive, the good news is that this new era of gambling is helping to ease the tension.
According to the Gaming Commission, casinos in the country generating earnings that exceeded $355 million, which is a far cry from the $256 million that was produced in 2021. Puerto Rico is highly dependent on its tourism market to support its island economy.
However, the pandemic gravely impacted the hospitality industry and it took a minute before the industry found its footing. This year, the significant growth that has so far been recorded can largely be attributed to stabilized casinos, as well as reduced pandemic-related restrictions that kept punters confined in their homes.
The market has recorded steady growth
Puerto Rico has enjoyed legal sports betting since 2019 thus adding to its extensive entrée of gambling options. Currently, the country boasts 16 legal casinos. However, this number is expected to keep rising in the coming year and beyond. At least 3 new casino properties are expected in the next year alone according to the Puerto Rico Gaming Commission.
Namely, the Tribute Portfolio in Ponce, The Condado Plaza Hilton in San Juan, as well as the Dorado-based Embassy Suites by Hilton-Dorado have each sought gaming licenses from the Gaming Commission. At present, the country allows licensed casinos to offer slot machines, as well as various table games.
The Gaming Commission has already approved gaming privileges for the 3 casinos. As a result, each of the casino hotels is expected to offer even more variety to customers. In particular, Condado will add more than 300 slot machines and at least 12 new table games as a result of the new license. The Condado-based hotel announced that it would invest $33 million and would see the generation of at least 200 new jobs.
This October, the House finally approved the amendment of certain sections of the country’s “Law of Gaming Machines.” These amendments were made to allow the Treasury to generate more funds while also subsidizing the various government projects that experienced budget cuts during the pandemic.
Puerto Rico has additionally struggled to stabilize its economy thanks to the various hurricanes that have devasted the island over the last several years. Just recently, the country was dealt yet another blow when Hurricane Fiona hit as a category 1 storm that has left the majority of the island sans water or power for days on end.
This new hurricane arrived 5 years after Hurricane Maria, which made its first landfall on September 19th as the strongest hurricane on record to landfall on the island. Maria was the first Category 4 hurricane to impact the US territory of Puerto Rico in 85 years. And before that, the country had already been dealing with the effects of Hurricane Irma.
As the government continues to support and approve more gaming legislation, it is expected to result in higher fees and more revenue to fill the state’s coffers. The recently proposed amendment of the “Law of Gaming Machines” is vital as it will ensure that Puerto Rico’s small- and medium-sized enterprises continue to offer gambling entertainment without prejudicial competition.
This newly amended law will, in particular, allow for the distribution of a small percentage of the total revenue to the country’s civil service. From each of the licenses that will be issued, the Gaming Commission is expected to retain at least $175 that will be utilized for operating expenses while an addition $75 will be distributed to the country’s Police Retirement (PRPR) compensation.
This new legislation has also authorized the utilization of gaming machines in various government-approved establishments and businesses. The maximum number of machines that will be allowed for each business will be 10, which should allow the generation of even more revenue.
Sports betting is also adding new operators to the extensive roster
This November, the Gaming Commission also authorized the addition of 7 new companies to the country’s thriving sports betting industry. Online betting has been a wonderful source of revenue for other gambling markets. As such, the addition of new operators and gambling suppliers to the market will no doubt be a great additional source of jobs.
At the same time, new operators in the market will also help the treasury to generate even more much-needed income. The Commission accepted the Sports Betting Bureau’s licenses recommendation to grant 3 operators new licenses. However, an additional 4 service providers will also be granted licenses.
Of the 7 gambling licenses to be authorized by the gaming commission, 5 will be temporary. The 3 operators to be issued with licensed include Liberman Media Group Gaming, CCHPR Hospitality which controls Casino Metro, as well as Ballers Puerto Rico Sportsbook. Some of the service providers that were recently awarded licenses include Caesars Digital PR, Continent 8 Technologies, Swish Analytics Puerto Rico, as well as US Integrity Inc.
At present, in-person sports betting is the only form of sports betting allowed in the country. DraftKings joined the Puerto Rican gambling market a little earlier this year. And like fellow competitors BetMGM and others, the gambling giant is crossing its fingers that online sports betting will be legalized in the market soon.
All in all, the gambling market in Puerto Rico is set for continued success. The market, which has been faced with numerous challenges over the last 5 years or so, has demonstrated great resilience. With the country experiencing a quick rebound of tourists this year, the country could soon outperform other Caribbean destinations in terms of recovery.