Puerto Rico Economic Crisis: 7th Hotel Casino Lays Off Workers, Closes Casino
Puerto Rico's tourism industry has fallen victim to its failing economy, which has been hit the hardest by hotel and casino closings over the past five years.
Another popular casino hotel in the U.S. territory closed Wednesday after 40 years of operation, reports The Associated Press.
Condado Plaza Hilton managing director Raul Bustamante said Hilton laid off 144 employees from the seaside casino located in the Condado tourist district. The hotel's closure follows a 40 percent drop slot machines use over the past 10 years, he said.
The former casino, which opened in 1975, operated 24-hours. The building will likely be converted into a ballroom, Bustamante said, adding, "We now want to focus on areas where we've had good business: rooms and banquets."
The Condado Plaza Hilton is the seventh casino to close its doors in the past five years, according to Puerto Rico's Hotel and Tourism Association. Currently, there are 20 casinos still in operation.
The closure of casinos is devastating to Puerto Rico, which uses the revenue from gambling taxes to promote the Caribbean island and fund the University of Puerto Rico, its largest public university.
The island has a population of 3.5 million that's struggling with a 12.6 percent unemployment rate.
Previous casino closures have resulted in a $6 million loss in revenue, according to government officials.
Jason Rivera, president of a local gastronomy union, blames the government for the economic crisis. He said the government has hurt workers and the gambling industry by seizing hundreds of illegal gambling machines in raids.
"We are not going to remain with our arms crossed in the face of so much injustice," he said.
Wall Street firms may be the saviors for the economically crippled island. On Thursday, The New York Times reported that John A. Paulson, a billionaire hedge fund manager, is investing $20 million for the San Juan Beach Hotel, which filed for bankruptcy in March.
The Caribbean Journal reported on Tuesday Fundamental Advisors, a Wall Street investment firm, purchased the iconic El San Juan Resort and Casino, which is a Hilton hotel, for $71 million.