Puerto Rico Officials Pursue Legalizing Sports Betting to Grow Tourism
Earlier this week, Puerto Rico state officials announced that they will be pursuing legalizing sports betting to increase tourism to the island state. Governor Ricardo Rossello is in support of this plan, and unveiled the draft legislation on Monday, April 1.
The bill not only regulated sports betting. But it also covers fantasy sports and eSports as well. In a statement, Rossello said the government wants to improve Puerto Rico. “Our administration is committed to new and creative ways to improve the lives of all Puerto Ricans, especially as we continue our reconstruction in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria,” he said.
Puerto Rico Tourism in Decline
The tourism industry in Puerto Rico has been experiencing a steady decline in visitors since Hurricane Maria hit the island in 2018. According to Puerto Rico’s Tourism Company, in 2017 more than 1.6 million non-resident guests spent the night. Comparatively, by September 2018, after the hurricane, only 1.3 million non-residents stayed. However, tourists from cruise ships remain high.
The overturning of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act last year meant that Puerto Rico could add sports betting to its list of legal gambling activities. The US territory already allows gambling in the form of horse racing and casino gaming.
Sports Betting Legalization to Improve Tourism Funds
To see what kind of impact sports betting would have on Puerto Rico, two independent research groups were hired to conduct studies.
Firstly, the Chamber of Commerce commissioned the Innovation Group. Their findings, according to Rossello said showed that sports betting at casinos, racetracks, and online would generate $29 million in revenue for the government by 2020. This would increase to $87 million by 2024.
Currently, the sports betting legislation has the full endorsement of the Chamber of Commerce. “It should be adopted in a sensible manner without unnecessary regulation,” said the Chamber’s president Kenneth Riviera.
Secondly, the government hired Spectrum Gaming Group to conduct another study. The group’s findings projected retail and online sportsbooks generating up to $62 million annually for the country.
Puerto Rico currently taxes slot machines to help fund the Tourism Company. However, according to the Foundation for Puerto Rico, tax revenue has been experiencing a gradual decline over the years. In 2012/13, slot machine taxes collected $58.8 million. But by 2016/17, this has dropped to less than $54 million.
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