‘Curfew’ Imposed in Puerto Rico’s Capital Spells Trouble for Casinos


Posted on: August 11, 2023, 06:56h. 

Last updated on: August 11, 2023, 06:56h.

There’s a debate among merchants and casinos in Puerto Rico regarding the impact of San Juan’s new Public Order Code (POC) on the city’s crime problem. However, everyone agrees on one thing – the effect it will have on casino revenue.

The Sheraton Hotel and Casino Metro in Puerto Rico as seen from the air
The Sheraton Hotel and Casino Metro in Puerto Rico as seen from the air. Changes coming to San Juan could affect the city’s casinos. (Image: Pinterest)

The government of San Juan is putting into effect a new ordinance that will have a significant impact on the city’s nightlife. Starting from this November, the new Public Order Code (POC) will aim to make the streets safer by implementing restrictions on alcohol consumption and movement during certain hours, particularly at night.

Opinions differ on whether the POC will effectively address the issue of violence in San Juan, but one thing is clear – it will directly impact casino revenue.

A Challenge for Casinos and Hotels

San Juan’s casinos and hotels are about to face a major challenge due to the new ordinance. Many of their activities, including gambling, take place during the restricted hours defined by the POC. This will limit the freedom of movement for both tourists and locals who visit these establishments.

Casino Metro, located at The Sheraton Hotel, is one of the most popular casinos in the area. Ismael Vega, the General Manager of Casino Metro, stated that the casino relies on 90% of its business from gamblers staying at other properties. However, with the curfew imposed by the POC, the casino’s 24/7 operating license is undermined.

A similar situation is seen at Casino del Mar, which is part of the La Concha Resort. Sigfrido de Jesús, the manager of Casino del Mar, mentioned that 80% of their customers are locals and 20% are tourists.

However, there’s a discrepancy between the definition of a hotel guest in the new municipal ordinance and Puerto Rico’s official definition. This can lead to confusion and frustration among tourists, potentially discouraging them from leaving their hotel rooms.

The new ordinance not only threatens the casino industry but also has broader economic implications. The restrictions on alcohol sales are expected to impact food sales as well, which can lead to a decline in employment and slower economic growth.

Organizations like the Restaurant Association of Puerto Rico (ASORE) and the United Retailers Center have expressed concerns about the economic impact of the POC. They fear it will negatively affect job creation and the overall economy.

Data from the Bureau of Employment Statistics shows a 6% increase in the number of establishments in San Juan compared to the previous year. However, the new POC may reverse this trend, potentially leading to job losses in the city.

Despite receiving feedback from hospitality companies and groups like ASORE, the government of San Juan chose to move forward with the POC, disregarding concerns about its economic impact.

ASORE had proposed a more flexible approach, allowing the sale of drinks until later hours and exempting food businesses operating 24/7 from the alcohol restrictions. Similar measures were implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic in some locations in Puerto Rico. However, it seems that the leadership in San Juan has different priorities.

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