International edition
June 23, 2021

"Room 802"

Border casino expected to open in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico

(Mexico).- A new casino in Ciudad Juarez will be located a short drive away from the border with Texas, making US tourism to the casino likely, executives say, offering poker and other table games. The Room 802 casino is slated to open in mid-November and is one of six in the city. "We expect a lot of tourists," said Yajaira Yesenia Valtierra Casillas, the casino manger.

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t is named "Room 802" because of the street address where it is located, in a sparkling upscale building that also houses trendy bars and restaurants. The casino is about a 15 minute drive south of the border. "Because we are just across from the U.S. we expect to have a lot of people from that country," said Valtierra.

Inside a dimly lit room young dealers who've been training for months, practice their skills on brand new tables ahead of the opening scheduled for mid-November.

"Everybody loves this game," said Ulises Mendoza, a trainer. He pointed to the table where an employee was placing a pile of chips on the craps table. There was also a roulette, black jack and several poker games.  "We're the only ones who will offer Texas Hold 'em," said owner Raul Rodriguez.

Rodriguez opened another casino in Ciudad Juarez, a year ago with 124 slot machines and a sports book. There are now half a dozen casinos in the Mexican border city.

As gaming expands, lawmakers in Mexico are trying to streamline what has been haphazard permitting process.

In the last decade Mexico has issued hundreds of gaming permits in a country where previously gambling was banned. Mexico's Supreme Court has allowed the new rules to stand. Proposed new regulations would not allow permit holders to transfer their rights to third parties.

Of course there are the usual concerns about money laundering, organized crime and casinos. "I have to report anyone who bets or wins US$ 744 to Hacienda, Mexico's IRS," said Rodriguez. 

Ciudad Juarez is a major drug smuggling corridor and became a bloody battleground for rival cartels. As the number of murders climbed to 10.000, and kidnapping and extortion spiked, visitors stayed away.

Since 2013 murders have declined sharply and now the city is working to lure tourists back across the border. "It (the new casino) is another plus for the city especially in Texas where you don't have to travel a long way," said Jose Arturo Ramos, director of Special Projects for Ciudad Juarez. "If you don't have the time or the money to travel to Vegas you just cross the border," said Ramos.

This year Ramos helped open a new tourism office in El Paso that offers round-trip shuttle service to the historic downtown section of Ciudad Juarez.

The plan is to expand the same transportation service to restaurants and casinos in the modern, upscale area of the city as well according to Ramos.

There are half a dozen casinos operating in Juarez now. Most offer slot machines and sports book betting that are popular with Americans especially during football season.

Ciudad Juarez is the only city on the Texas Mexico border with casinos that include high stakes poker and other table games. Surveys show a growing number of Texans support allowing casinos in the state. Casino owners in Mexico hope some of those gamblers who cross state lines to visit tribal casinos will cross the border too.

As Room 802 prepares to open, workers put finishing touches on the casino which includes a VIP section for high stakes poker games where players want privacy. The casino's owner is betting some of those high rollers will come from the U.S. side of the border. "We're excited," said Rodriguez.

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