n the first eleven months of 2006, bets in casinos and type-A slot halls reached us$ 669.3 million, 19,8% more than the same period in 2005, according to statistics of the Government Watchdog's Office. The average expense in bets of both Panamenians and foreigners that visit the country excee us$ 55 million a month. Panama has the second most developed casino industry in Latin America after Argentina.
“It is true that bets have been increasing, but the biggest change in the sector in 2006 is that it has entered in a nationalization stage as well as the promotion of responsive gaming”, pointed Antonio Alfaro, president of the Association of Games of Chance Managers (Asaja).
The sector and the entity that regulates the activity, the Gambling Control Committee (JCJ), have started to take measures in order to avoid a possible saturation of the games of chance market may cause severe damage in the Panamenian society through addiction. From Thursday, casinos and slot halls will start to apply, for the first time, the self-exclusion measure for people with gambling problems. It has been voluntaritly adopted by Asaja, in cooperation of the Panamenian Anonimous Association for people with gambling problems (Alapa).
The self-exclusion program already has four cases that have been admitted. JCJ is also working in a bill on how to deal with people with gambling problems, and casinos just expect to be consulted on the matter.