Posted on: December 18, 2021, 01:01h. 

Last updated on: December 17, 2021, 10:45h.

Officials in Puerto Rico revealed this week that the Caribbean island’s gaming industry is set to expand by way of three new casinos.

Puerto Rico casino tourism COVID-19
The Governor’s Mansion in Puerto Rico is seen in the distance in April of 2020. Three new casinos are set to come to the US Caribbean island territory before 2021 closes out. (Image: Getty)

The Puerto Rico Gaming Commission says the Condado Plaza Hilton in San Juan, Embassy Suites by Hilton-Dorado in Dorado, and Tribute Fortfolio in Ponce are each seeking gaming licenses. Puerto Rico currently permits licensed casinos to operate slot machines and table games.

The gaming commission says the Condado application has already been approved, and the two others will be granted gaming privileges in the coming days. Gaming operations at all three casinos are scheduled to commence before the end of the year.

Condado hotel reps say the forthcoming casino will have more than 300 slot machines and around two dozen table games. The Hilton property told gaming regulators that it’s investing $33 million into the gaming space, and the casino will generate around 200 direct jobs.

The two other casino applicants are seeking authorization for approximately 200 slot machines each, and less than a dozen table games in total. The Embassy Suites and Tribute casinos are anticipated to create 120 new jobs between the two gaming venues.

Tourism Rebound

Puerto Rico relies heavily on tourism to prop up its island economy. But COVID-19 was, of course, gravely damaging to the hospitality industry.

The US territory counted more than 2.2 million overnight visitors in 2019. That number plummeted to just 1.1 million during the pandemic-stricken 2020.

However, 2021 has been a different story, as Puerto Rico experienced a quick rebound of visitors. Data supplied by “Discover Puerto Rico,” a nonprofit destination marketing organization, shows that hotel rooms sold this year have already eclipsed 2019.

Despite facing many challenges stemming from the pandemic, the tourism community in Puerto Rico is once again showing the world its strength and resiliency,” said Brad Dean, CEO of Discover Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico is outperforming other Caribbean destinations in terms of post-pandemic recovery. And the island’s hotel rooms are going for average nightly rates that are 37 percent higher than they were in 2019.

The influx of visitors is likely part of the reason why the three aforementioned resorts are seeking casino rights to bolster the attractiveness of their destinations.

PR Casino Industry

Discover Puerto Rico says the island currently has 16 licensed casinos, which is set to expand soon to 19. Despite the number of gaming properties, Puerto Rico remains a relatively small gaming market. In 2019, gross gaming revenue on the island totaled less than $300 million.

The most newsworthy casino in Puerto Rico is perhaps located at the historic Fairmont El San Juan Hotel, where Foxwoods recently reopened a casino space. The 15,000-square-foot Foxwoods El San Juan Casino commenced operations in November, with nearly 300 slot machines and 14 table games.

Sports betting remains in the works in Puerto Rico. The island legalized sports betting in 2019. But the process of finalizing the regulations that will oversee the expanded gambling has moved slowly amid COVID-19.

BetMGM nonetheless became the first US-based sportsbook operator to reach a partnership with a Puerto Rico casino. The MGM Resorts entity announced in September an agreement with Casino del Mar at La Concha Resort in San Juan to run sports betting there once permitted.



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