In Paraguay, officials from the trade union for the National Ports Authority have held a meeting to discuss ways to stop the construction of a new hotel and casino complex being planned for the border city of Ciudad Del Este.

Last week saw the South American nation’s gaming regulator approve the final terms for bidders hoping to win the right to build and operate a new gaming facility on a 27-acre site just meters from the head of the Friendship Bridge border crossing with Brazil. In exchange for a 20-year gaming license, potential operators must be willing to invest $50 million to $70 million on the project, which is to additionally be required to feature a hotel with 200 to 300 rooms and a swimming pool as well as shops and other entertainment facilities.

However, locals are worried that the site in the country’s second largest city could become a duty-free area and harm nearby businesses while the union for the National Ports Authority employees is objecting on the grounds that the plot is already home to the regulator’s area headquarters and any new construction would require relocation.

According to a report from G3 Newswire, Nicolas Russo, a lawyer working on behalf of the union for the National Ports Authority workers, explained that the body intends to request that the site’s development license be annulled on the grounds that local regulations prohibit further construction in the area. He stated that the organization will moreover denounce the project before the nation’s Anti-Corruption Office while putting its objections before the Comptroller General.

Russo also revealed that the union intends to denounce the actions of Paraguay’s gaming regulator while detailing that a group of architecture students has filed an application with the Ministry Of Culture to have the current area headquarters for the National Ports Authority declared a site of historic interest.

Teodoro Mercado, president for the local city council, told G3 Newswire that any casino for the border crossing area would hurt downtown businesses and area employment rates.

“This casino hotel will be like a filter, a sieve, where the people who visit the city will remain,” said Mercado. “They will no longer go to the downtown area. Our concern is not political and I believe that citizens and merchants must mobilise.”

He explained that the development could be transformed into a duty-free zone despite previous assurances from the gaming regulator to the contrary and urged government officials to consider building any new area casino well away from built-up areas.

Javier Balbuena, president for nation’s gaming regulator, last week reported that his body could begin accepting tenders for the Ciudad Del Este project as early March “if all goes as planned” while stressing the urgency of the development due to the looming possibility that the government of Brazil could soon pass new regulations legalizing and regulating casino gaming. He moreover defended the location by proclaiming that “people have still not realized the benefits that it will bring to the city”.