147 Tourists Report Getting Sick at Hard Rock Casino Punta Cana, Dominican Republic Since Start of June

Posted on: June 17, 2019, 07:21h. 

Last updated on: June 17, 2019, 08:25h.

Some 147 tourists vacationing in the Dominican Republic have reported recent or historical illnesses while staying at the Hard Rock Punta Cana via the website iwaspoisoned.com in June alone. Of those, 128 were posted in just the past week.

Hard Rock Punta Cana
Trouble in Paradise? Why are so many people — including many American tourists — falling ill in the Dominican Republic, and at the Hard Rock, Punta Cana in particular? (Image: Hard Rock Punta Cana)

The news comes amid a spate of suspicious fatalities of otherwise healthy US vacationers at resorts in the Caribbean nation.

At least two deaths have been reported at the Hard Rock Punta Cana, which is a franchised property within the portfolio of Hard Rock International, a company owned by the Seminole Native American tribe of Florida.

Iwaspoisoned.com is a consumer crowdsourcing website that tracks food-borne illnesses by offering a platform for people to report illness after eating meals at hotels or restaurants. Casino.org cannot account for the veracity of each post.

Violent Illness

Last week, the food poisoning website’s founder, Patrick Quade, told The New York Post that almost 70 tourists had reported succumbing to illness while staying at resorts in the Dominican Republic since March — that’s up from ten reported in the country for the whole of 2018. The vast majority were guests at the Hard Rock Punta Cana.

Since the publication of the Post article, more than a hundred more have left messages on the platform describing symptoms of vomiting, diarrhea, and fever while staying at the Hard Rock. Some claim they were hospitalized as a result of their illnesses.

After 2 days, my husband became violently ill with diarrhea, fever and nausea. A day later, I became ill with the same, including fever and chills,” reads one post. “These symptoms lasted the entire trip. I would estimate that over half of our group became ill as well, some with additional respiratory symptoms that mimicked influenza.”

While reviews on TripAdvisor vary — with many users rating the hotel highly — many others also report illness. A disclaimer on TripAdvisor currently reads:

“TripAdvisor has been made aware of recent media reports or events concerning this property which may not be reflected in reviews found on this listing. Accordingly, you may wish to perform additional research for information about this property when making your travel plans.”

Eighth DR Death Reported

The news comes shortly after the death of another US tourist was reported last week, bringing the number of confirmed fatalities to eight.

Leyla Cox, 53, an MRI technician from Staten Island in New York, died on Tuesday at the Excellence resort in Punta Cana, as her son Will Cox told NBC News.

Cox said the US Embassy in the Dominican Republic told him a toxicology test would not be performed, because the toxicology machine was broken.

Bootleg Booze, Pesticides May Hold Answer

The Post reports the FBI will take blood samples from American tourists who have died in suspicious circumstances in the country’s resorts, some after reportedly consuming a drink from the minibar of their hotel room.

According to Post sources, the federal agency is working with local authorities to discern whether bootleg alcohol might be the source of the spate of mysterious fatalities of hotel guests. Another theory is that chemical pesticides could be to blame.

Experts say the symptoms reported by victims — severe vomiting, diarrhea and respiratory problems — are consistent with exposure to methanol, which is highly toxic to humans and sometimes used to adulterate bootleg liquor – as well as to organophosphates, powerful nerve agents used in pesticides.

In extreme cases, exposure to some organophosphates could result in cardiac arrest, which has been identified as a cause of death in several cases.

In a statement last week, the Hard Rock Punta Cana said the safety of its guests “is now and has always been our highest priority” and that it was “confident that all operational protocols were followed to ensure the safety of our guests.”

Casino.org has reached out to Hard Rock International for comment and is awaiting the company’s response.

Potential DR Casino and Tourism Impact

The gaming industry in the Dominican Republic is closely linked to the country’s tourism industry, which accounts for some 11.6 percent of its GDP. There are around 60 land-based casinos — mainly for the benefit of the six million foreign tourists that visit each year — and these are generally esconced within large all-inclusive resorts, such as the Hard Rock.

Just over half of all tourists to the DR are from the US.