Puerto Rico Governor Demands Gambling Law Overhaul

Puerto Rico Governor Wanda Vázquez Garced is pursuing an overhaul of the gambling laws of the Caribbean island to boost its economy and tourism after the severe damage of  the 2017 back-to-back hurricanes Irma and Maria.

Last week, Vázquez personally recommended the appointments of Puerto Rico’s ‘Games Commission’ advisors Professor José Balasquide-Córdova and Cristóbal Méndez to lead the growth.

Writing to the Senate, Vázquez requested that the gaming duties be handled by the Equestrian Sports Society of Puerto Rico and the Tourism Board be transferred to a new Commission for Games headed by Córdova and Méndez.

She said: “The Puerto Rico Games Commission has the responsibility of establishing regulations for these economic activities. I am pleased to submit before the Senate of Puerto Rico to these two professionals, whose trajectory and knowledge will be of great value to develop said regulation and make this market viable on the island.”

To date, the government of Puerto Rico has loosely regulated all forms of land-based gambling (including cockfighting) under the two regulatory bodies ‘ remit.

Nevertheless, ruled as an’ unincorporated territory’ of the United States, Puerto Rico’s government was required to comply with UIGEA’s U.S. federal regulations and the 1961 Wire Act banning sports betting and wagering online.

Bill PC2038 was officially approved by the Senate of Puerto Rico in 2019, setting the groundwork for sport wagering to be performed in licenced premises.

However, progress on Bill PC2038 would be stalled as its sponsor, former Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló, was forced to leave office after the high profile leak of homophobic text messages mocking victims of hurricanes.

Assuming office in August 2019, Vázquez as chief of the New Progressive Party of Puerto Rico has emphasised reviving tourism on the island as its top priority.

Vázquez faces a daunting challenge in revitalising Puerto Rico’s economy, as the region’s debt has swelled to $74 billion since the destruction of the hurricane. Like mainland US territories, the Puerto Rican government has no access to US banking codes Chapter 9, in which Puerto Rico can not apply for relief from bankruptcy.