Wanda Vázquez Garced, Governor of Puerto Rico, is seeking an overhaul of the Caribbean island’s gambling laws to revive its economy and tourism following the severe damage of back-to-back hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017.
Last week, Vázquez personally recommended the appointments of advisors Professor José Balasquide-Córdova and Cristóbal Méndez to lead the development of Puerto Rico’s ‘Games Commission’.
Writing to Senate, Vázquez demanded that the gambling responsibilities be overseen by Puerto Rico’s Equestrian Sports Society and the Tourism Board be transferred to a new Games Commission led by Córdova and Méndez.
“The Puerto Rico Games Commission has the responsibility of establishing regulations for these economic activities,” she said. “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, Puerto Rico’s government has loosely regulated all forms of land-based gambling (including cockfighting) under the remit of two regulatory bodies.
Nevertheless, governed as a US ‘unincorporated territory’, Puerto Rico’s government has been forced to abide by the US federal mandates of UIGEA and 1961 Wire Act restricting sports betting and online wagering.
In 2019, Puerto Rico’s Senate formally approved Bill PC2038, laying the foundations for sports wagering to be conducted within licensed premises.
However, Bill PC2038 progress would be halted as its sponsor, former Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló, was forced to leave office following the high-profile leak of homophobic text messages mocking hurricane victims.
Taking office in August 2019, Vázquez as leader of Puerto Rico’s New Progressive Party has underlined reviving the island’s tourism as her top priority.
Vázquez faces a daunting task in revitalising Puerto Rico’s economy, as the region’s debt has inflated to $74 billion following its hurricane devastation. Unlike mainland US states, the Puerto Rican government holds no access Chapter 9 on US Banking Codes, in which Puerto Rico cannot file for bankruptcy relief.