Mexico is preparing to authorize the construction of casinos in popular tourist resorts, including Acapulco, Baja California and the Mayan Riviera. The country’s Interior Ministry said in a press conference last week that the idea was to keep new casinos from springing up in urban areas, where they’re more likely to rely on a local clientele.
The number of new casinos that will be permitted in resorts has yet to be determined. There are currently 297 gambling venues in Mexico and, using a formula based on the number of permits issued by previous federal governments, the new project could result in as many as 775 casinos being developed in resorts popular with affluent tourists.
Hotel chains including the Hard Rock Riviera Maya and Resort Mundo Imperial Acapulco have already confirmed their interest in adding live casino gambling to the list of amenities they can offer their guests. The head of the Mexican Association of Professional Real Estate Agents said certain unnamed “Las Vegas-based firms” had already expressed interest in setting up shop at resort properties in Cancun.
Mexico is currently in the process of passing its new Federal Betting and Raffles Law. The bill was approved by the House of Representatives in December and will be discussed in the Senate later this month. Maria Marcela González Salas, the Director General of Gaming and Raffles, said there is still time to amend the bill to include the resort casino project.
BRINGING ORDER FROM CHAOS
The new legislation is an attempt by Mexico’s new federal government to exert some control over the country’s chaotic casino industry. The legislation will require current casino licensees to reapply for licensing, which the head of the country’s gaming association has warned could spark a flurry of court challenges if many of these operators are denied new licenses.
Last May, federal authorities took action against several casinos operated by Entretenimiento De Mexico (EMEX), including the Playboy Club in Cancun. The authorities said EMEX had failed to legally establish the legitimacy of its operations. In 2013, Mexico reduced casino license terms from 40 to 25 years and revoked the ability of casino licensees to pass licenses on to other operators.