Another Puerto Rican casino has been forced to pull the chips off tables and quell the bells and whistles of their once profitable slot machines. After 15 years and a $22 million upgrade just two years ago, the InterContinental San Juan Resort & Casino has succumbed to the U.S. territory’s crippling economic crisis. Yahoo News reported Tuesday that the casino had wrapped up operations as of Monday January 27. The popular casino’s closing marks the 9th gaming venue demise in Puerto Rico in the last five years.
The Sheraton Old San Juan Hotel & Casino closed gaming in September in anticipation of being sold to a Tishman Hotel Corporation affiliate that reportedly had planned to turn the casino into retail space. In July of last year it was announced that Hilton would close Condado Plaza Casino after 40 years of operations there.
Puerto Rico’s financial crisis is escalating and the government was recently sued for allegedly diverting tax revenues that are intended to back up certain bonds. Assured Guaranty Corp. and Ambac Assurance Corporation contend that the government used the revenues to finance general obligation bonds instead. General obligation bonds have higher priority and are repaid first.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew recently urged congress in Washington D.C. to pass legislation by March to address the potentially catastrophic economic issues before it becomes too late. As a territory, Puerto Rico falls into a special ‘black hole’ of regulatory requirements that make it impossible for the government to simply file bankruptcy to reorganize debt as Detroit did.
In addition to struggling along with the rest of the economy, casinos in Puerto Rico are further challenged by a spate of illegal slot machines and government plans to allow video lottery terminals (slot machines) outside of the high class hotel venues that have traditionally been the homes to games of chance. The Treasury there could net as much as $400 million a year from the move, but could further cripple the tourism industry.