Once the sun sets near the equator, sun-bathed tourists leave behind the palm trees and umbrella drinks to flock to one of the many gambling locales found throughout the Caribbean and Central and South America. In some jurisdictions, locals mingle with the tourists while in others, community citizens are strictly forbidden to test their luck on the gaming floors.
The gaming industry south of the U.S. border is nearly as diverse as the landscape itself, with some areas offering slot machines, table games, off-track betting, sports betting, online gaming and lotteries. Other areas, however, limit gaming to only a handful of these, or forbid any kind of gambling at all. And while many of these regions are reasonably well regulated and developed, others are still struggling to find legal transparency and public support.
Throughout the Caribbean’s myriad small volcanic and coral limestone islands, tourists have the option to play slots, table games and make pari-mutuel wagers. The Caribbean casino and card room industry is largely tourist-based, though select jurisdictions allow locals to gamble. Lotteries are also offered in some jurisdictions, as well as online gaming. There are also many areas with extremely well developed racetracks.
There are plenty of options for gaming throughout the Caribbean islands, and the land-based gaming industry has recently experienced an increase in competition. “Most cruise ships that sail the Caribbean now have casinos,” says Fred Gushin, managing director of Spectrum Gaming Group. “The land-based casino properties now have to compete for every dollar spent. And cruise ships aren’t the only competition. As gambling has expanded throughout the world, so have the choices for gamblers, which means the amenity-type casinos that are found in the Caribbean’s resorts aren’t as big of a draw as they used to be. ”
One Caribbean country in particular is struggling with the increase in competition. “Since gambling has expanded in Florida, the Bahamas has seen a drop in gaming revenues,” says Gushin. “Before, tourists might have made a few trips a month to the Bahama’s lavish resorts, like the Atlantis, to gamble. Now they can visit one of the Seminole’s casinos in Florida and have a similar experience. “ While the Caribbean is facing an increase in competition for gaming dollars spent, the area’s gambling industry is still growing.
In the popular tourist destination of Puerto Rico, there are 18 locations where tourists can make wagers. Made up of 17 casinos and one horse track, gamers can play on more than 5,000 slot machines, 300 table games and make sport and racetrack bets. There are also two lotteries in the country—the traditional Loterìa Tradicional and the Loterìa Electrónica. Recently the government proposed new legislation that would allow an additional 20,000 VLTs on the island. In addition, the country has also expanded other areas of gambling. “Puerto Rico recently passed a bill that allows 2,500 VLTs at off-track betting parlors,” said Joseph Weinert, a senior vice president for Spectrum Gaming Group.
Although Weinert says that Puerto Rico has a reasonably well regulated industry, there remains a large gray market for Adult Entertainment Machines (AEMs). “There are somewhere between 45,000 to 75,000 AEMs throughout the country,” added Weinert. “These non-cash prize machines are brazenly open and do have an effect on Puerto Rico’s gaming market.” Unfortunately, like many regions south of the U.S. there is little hope of eliminating the AEM gray market.