n October 17, at Panama’s National Assembly’s third debate, lawmakers approved bill 621, which includes amendments to Law 51 and provides for an increase in pension benefits. Now, the proposed amendments have been passed to the executive, which can whether sign them into law or exercise its veto powers.
Such pension benefits increase -of up to 1500 dollars-, would be financed by a 5% tax on betting centers and slot machines revenue.
This decision has not been well received by several associations, including Panama’s Chamber of Commerce, Industry, and Agriculture, who has also joined the petition for the presidential veto.
Yelitza Amador has said to the local press that she is surprised the bill made it through a second debate. “I am disappointed. Everyone knows casinos are going through a tough time”
She pointed out that about six thousand workers have been laid off in the last three years, and the economy is not working for this industry, as a result of a drop in the number of wagers.
“This issue is not about whether people like gambling, but about their right to choose among racetracks, lottery or gambling. “It has to do with legal certainty over the existing contracts with the State”, she highlighted.
Amador specified that for every dollar wagered, 0.93 cents are awarded as prizes and she estimates that the remaining 7 cents are used for paying a 18% contribution to the state, salaries, investment debts and the insurance system.
She also pointed out that the gambling industry used to be strong and grew weaker with all of these adjustments. She clarified that she is not opposed to pension benefit increases but believes this is not the right way. “The industry is choking off,” she concluded.