uring a virtual conference held this week, representatives of 15 Puerto Rico casinos have call on the government to allow for the reopening of these establishments soon and to allow the more than 3,000 employees back to the workforce.
Casinos in Puerto Rico are paralyzed and reporting a blunder to the more than 3,000 direct jobs and the over 80,000 employees in the tourism industry that have also been affected, the Weekly Journal reports. In a joint missive signed by multiple workers from various casinos, they claim that the outlook looks even bleaker given the reality that many of those people who had to be laid off in March and again in July have not yet received their unemployment benefits, lacking the income to support their families.
"Decisions to shut down casino operations have been made unfounded, and without having evaluated all the rigorous and strict measures taken by this group. It is time now that closings are made using empirical evidence or tracking that supports said decision. This closure has been disastrous and affects the livelihoods, physical and mental health of hundreds of thousands of Puerto Rican families every day. Many of these families are led by women, who have been unable to pay for their housing, buy food, school supplies and have a health plan for their children and relatives," the statement reads.
They noted that this closure has a direct impact on Puerto Rico's economy, underscoring that the industry contributes nearly $150 million to the budget for the University of Puerto Rico, the Puerto Rico Tourism Co., and the General Fund.
"Casino closures endanger the operational capacity of the University of Puerto Rico and the Tourism Co., thus affecting their employees, professors, and students. It is our University where the future of thousands of Puerto Ricans is forged and the Tourism Co. is the main agency responsible for the tourism industry and its promotion, essential for the support of more than 80,000 Puerto Ricans and one of the most important economic activities of the island," they added.
In the missive, they state that casinos took "very seriously" the threat of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and implemented "rigorous" disinfection protocols, as well as other measures, such as taking customer's temperatures, enforcing mask use and social distancing, among others.
"Meanwhile, it is frustrating to see daily images of illegal machine operations in countless establishments, without any type of safety, hygiene or distancing measures. This is extremely unfair and intolerable, contrary to the law. We ask that immediate action be taken," they denounced.
As such, they urged Gov. Wanda Vázquez and her Medical Task Force to reconsider their stances on allowing these establishments to operate.
"We all have a responsibility to achieve a balance that protects physical health, as well as mental health and financial health. The Casinos of Puerto Rico are committed to fully comply with our part. We are ready to receive the public, providing a safe and leisure space," they underscored.
The statements were signed by:
Antonio Matta – El Tropical Casino, Hyatt Place Bayamón
Debbie Alonso - Mayagüez Resort & Casino
Carlos Amy – PRISA Group
Carl Kortum - International Hospitality Group
Carlos Lugo – Paradise Island Casino, Mayagüez Resort & Casino
Carlos Otero Jr. – San Juan Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino
Eric Rodríguez – Costa Bahía Hotel
Francisco Colón – Casino Real, Four Points by Sheraton Caguas Real Hotel & Casino
Guillermo Márquez - Casino Del Sol, Courtyard By Marriott Isla Verde
Héctor Ortega – Casino Atlántico, Hyatt Place Manatí
Ismael Vega - Casino Metro, Sheraton Puerto Rico
José Algarín – Empresas Santana
José E. Delgado – Sheraton Puerto Rico
José González Espinosa – San Juan Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino
Jesús Couvertier - Wyndham Grand Rio Mar Beach Resort & Spa
Mario Negrón – El Tropical Casino, Holiday Inn Mayagüez & Tropical Casino
Marisol Santiago – Casino de la Plaza, Ponce Plaza Hotel and Casino
Mauro Ruiz – Ocean Casino, Courtyard By Marriott Aguadilla
Miguel Vega – HI Development Puerto Rico
Omar Mercado – El Tropical Casino, Holiday Inn Ponce & Tropical Casino
Ramón Muñoz – MB Muñoz Holdings
Sigfrido De Jesús - Casino Del Mar, La Concha A Renaissance Resort
Vladimir Fernández – Oasis Casino, Embassy Suites San Juan Hotel & Casino