Managers and employees of several casinos in Puerto Rico today made a dramatic call to Governor Wanda Vázquez Garced and the Medical Task Force to allow them to reopen under equal conditions in which other businesses have gradually restarted operations amid the pandemic .
The general manager of the Casino del Mar La Concha Resort, Sigfrido de Jesús and the general manager of the Casino Metro Sheraton, Ismael Vega, warned that if the casinos fail to reopen in the coming months, many will have to close.
They indicated that between 40% to 50% “is a comfortable number for casinos”, to restart operations gradually and they demanded that they be included in the next executive order.
“Our workers do not want to continue in the ranks of unemployment, waiting for a turn to receive help, our employees want to work. The imposed closure of casinos, without proof, has been disastrous. This closure affects the economy and the government since we contributed almost $ 50 million to the budget of the University of Puerto Rico, the Tourism Company and the General Fund “said De Jesús at a press conference from the Hotel La Concha.
He highlighted that, currently, as a result of the closure due to the pandemic, about 95% of the 3,000 casino employees “are on the street or laid off.” Some 16 casinos currently operate in Puerto Rico.
The entrepreneurs estimated monthly losses for casinos and the government at $ 23 and $ 24 million, and claimed that from July 1 to July 16, when they were allowed to open and then ordered to close again, they had to withdraw money without profit to comply with the hygiene measures and social distancing. They detailed that each casino invested about $ 100,000 in acrylics, temperature gauges, sanitizers and other materials required by the COVID-19 protocol.
De Jesús said that casino operators are used to “having absolute control” of the gaming rooms. “With or without a pandemic, people who do not follow the rules immediately withdraw from the gaming halls, where there are security cameras recording all the time,” he said.
“We are ready and prepared and we are counting on you (the governor) to give us the opportunity as you gave us previously. We are not going to let him down, said the manager of one of the Mayagüez casinos.
“We have reached a point where we have become not a request but a plea. We are begging you so that our industry does not disappear, ”said the manager of the Tropical Casino in Ponce.
Another Isla Verde manager said that “the first 15 days of July we showed that we were able to have a clean and safe place.”
With the hashtag #We want to work, emotional video testimonies of croupiers and of other employees who expressed how the closure does not allow them to support their families.
“I have two children, one in college who did not get a scholarship and I don’t know how I’m going to pay,” one said with tears. croupier, who said that he has not been able to undergo surgery due to lack of financial resources.
Another employee said that for them the situation is devastating because “many of us have not been able to collect unemployment since March and those who worked in July have found it impossible to reactivate their unemployment claims”
“Every day is worse. We are living inhumanly. If the government doesn’t help us, let us work, ”another employee exclaimed.