In 1948, Puerto Rico instated legal gaming on the island. This year marks 75 years since residents were first allowed to take part in gambling at gaming halls as well as via slot machines. To celebrate, the Antiguo Casino de Puerto Rico hosted a special ceremony this August, honoring the island’s gambling history, present and future.
75 years ago, Puerto Rico’s law changed to allow gambling. It succeeded in drawing tourists for decades to come.
A celebration at Antiguo Casino
As a part of the anniversary celebration, Puerto Rico Gaming Commission executive director Jaime Rivera Emmanuelli shared some information about the island’s gaming past. He explained that the original law that was put in place to offer legal gaming to residents was actually done in order to attract tourists.
This was in line with popular tourist destinations around the world at the time. Puerto Rico’s leaders thought that their island could join the ranks of these places where casino and slot offerings constituted top entertainment.
The executive director confirmed that this experiment was successful, as Puerto Rico has consistently drawn tourists and continues to grow in its offerings for them. This was done officially via Law 221, approved in 1948.
The law provided for transparency and regulation in betting games. It created Puerto Rico’s formal betting industry. It allowed the government to supervise betting activities and for the island’s Treasury to benefit from them.
As the typical argument in favor of regulation goes, the law succeeded in creating safe, reliable gaming for tourists and locals alike, while also helping the government to benefit by collecting tax from casino income and prizes.
Puerto Rico’s casino landscape
Puerto Rico currently has 18 casinos. The earnings generated by them are distributed between the casinos themselves as well as Puerto Rico’s government, the University of Puerto Rico, the Treasury and the Puerto Rican Tourism Company.
The Puerto Rican Tourism Company — also known as Compañía de Turismo de Puerto Rico or Turismo — is a government-owned company that works to promote growth in the tourism industry there. It is also involved in the regulation of tourism-related businesses like hotels, taxis and casinos.
A look at the numbers
The Puerto Rico Gaming Commission also has information available about how gaming has contributed to the local economy. From 2013 to 2023, the Puerto Rican government received $1,369,835,368 USD in connection to gaming.
Out of this amount, the University of Puerto Rico received $619,801,948 USD. The Treasury’s allotment was $212,735,360 USD. Turismo received $537,298,058. With these kinds of budgets and contributions, it is important for the Gaming Commission to also look forward and find ways to grow the industry of the island.
To this end, the executive director did not miss the chance to mention the recent inclusion of sports betting to Puerto Rico’s gaming law framework. The commission approved its first licenses in June 2023. The first platform operating on the island is Caesars Sportsbook, provided by Caesars Entertainment with Casino Metro.
It is currently estimated that Puerto Rico’s various sports betting platforms will earn $4 million USD for the government just in the next fiscal year.
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