Changes are coming to Latin America as the region continues to look for economic prosperity. However, Venezuela is among the countries that has been hit hardest due to decades of mismanagement. Grocery stores with no food on the shelves, massive unemployment and rampant inflation have crippled the country even more. It now looks like Venezuela’s leader, Nicolas Maduro, is ready to make a concerted effort to find economic stability. To meet that goal, he has now allowed the country’s casino industry, locked out for ten years, to begin to reopen.
Venezuela Casinos Reappear
Venezuela’s former leader, the late Hugo Chavez, eliminated casinos in 2011 through an executive order, a measure Maduro initially carried forward. However, early last year, he asserted that he would rescind the order and is now going to allow at least 30 casinos around the country to begin to reopen. The first was the Ciudad Jardin casino at the Pipo Hotel in Maracay, which opened on August 31, with others to reappear over the course of the next few weeks. By the time all the trash is cleared, the machines are wiped down and electrical problems are fixed, there will be casinos in the cities of Anzoátegui, Aragua, Barinas, Bolívar, Caracas, Carabobo, Nueva Esparta, Falcón, Lara, Miranda, Portuguesa and Zulia.
The reopening of the casinos isn’t without a lot of unanswered questions. When Chavez killed the casino industry a decade ago, more than 100,000 people lost their jobs. Now, if the casinos are to operate properly, some of those may be able to find employment again, but many positions will need to find fresh talent. That means extensive training and, in an ideal world, background checks. If over 100,000 vacancies need to be filled, it’s difficult to imagine everything being put into place quickly.
Uncertain Revenue Opportunities
The relaunch will likely be slow and, at times, arduous and confusing, which will be frustrating to gamblers. However, the properties aren’t likely to see a huge influx of traffic from the start for several reasons. The official minimum wage in the country is approximately $2.77 per month and over 90% of the population lives below the poverty line, according to Statista. Venezuela, despite having the largest oil reserves of any place in the world, has been in a major recession for almost as long as the casinos have been closed, and the number of people living in poverty or extreme poverty continues to grow.
The country could rely on international gamblers, but even that will be difficult. Travel from the US, which could be an important feeder market, is almost impossible, and COVID-19 issues around the world make international travel difficult. Venezuela also suffers from runaway crime, frequent power and water shortages and lack of proper health facilities, which exacerbate the country’s status as unfriendly to tourism.
However, the news could be a sign that, perhaps, Maduro, once a public bus driver, is beginning to loosen his grip on the country. It could also mean that additional changes could be coming that might stabilize the country and put it back on the map. It’s too early to tell, but Venezuelans everywhere are attentively watching to see what happens next.