Angel Matos Garcia, a lawmaker from Ponce, has demanded that the permits for the three new casinos in the city be investigated. The casinos will be located in Aloft, Hampton Inn, and the Marriott Tribute Portfolio hotels.
García said that the granting of the new licenses was ‘worrying’ due to the high concentration of gambling in the area. “The southern zone of Puerto Rico has the operation of four-game rooms for the enjoyment of citizens and visitors.” These are located in the Hilton Ponce Golf, Ponce Plaza Hotel, Holiday Inn Ponce and the Costa Bahía Hotel.
“Precisely, the latter operates the casino only twelve hours a day due to the high offer of games in the area. These data raise serious questions about the granting of these new licenses,” he said adding that the Gaming Commission had not provided any information regarding their feasibility or the fiscal impact the new casinos would bring.
“Furthermore, we do not know if in effect, the said government entity carried out any type of study to grant these new permits or if they were granted solely and exclusively through requests from the hotels. Therefore, it is necessary that this legislative body seeks to ensure the economic development in an organized and planned manner, with studies that demonstrate the viability of projects. We cannot take it for granted that the opening of places leads to economic development,” he said
Orlando Rivera-Carrión, the board’s chairman, responded to the allegations in a news release, noting that the licenses were provided by another government entity, the Commissioner of Financial Institutions, rather than the Gaming Commission (OCIF).
“Apparently, the representative is conflating the support that the Gaming Commission offers when a casino proponent makes his proposal,” Rivera Carrión continued. As part of the approval process, the Tourism Company, the Municipality, the Permit Management Office, and other organizations endorse a project in the same way that the Commission does.”
The mayor of Ponce, Luis Irizarry Pabón, has endorsed the three projects, according to Rivera Carrión, and has backed the Gaming Commission’s approval of the additional casinos.
Rivera-Carrión said the Aloft hotel, which will open in April 2021, would invest up to $42 million in developing its casino when the news was announced at the end of last month. Hampton Inn and Tribute by Marriott, the other two properties, are currently under construction. According to the official, the new casinos will generate an additional $72 million in revenue for the government over the next ten years, with 51 percent of earnings going to the government and the remaining 49 percent going to the operator.