Chile’s Arica Casino Ordered to Close After 60 Years in the Community

Posted on: September 23, 2022, 07:21h. 

Last updated on: September 27, 2022, 06:32h.

After a ruling by the country’s Supreme Court, the Municipal Casino of Arica closed its doors after operating for 60 years. It was Chile’s second-oldest casino.

Casino Arica
The entrance to the Casino Arica in Arica, Chile. The second-oldest casino in the country closed this week after a legal battle with rival Luckia. (Image: Casino Arica)

Arica Mayor Gerardo Espíndola lamented the resolution and stated that the local government had tried to keep the casino alive. The highest court ordered the termination of the concession with Puerta Norte, the company that held the casino’s concession.

The closure resulted from a lawsuit filed by Casino Luckia, accusing the casino of unfair competition. Previously, the Court of Appeals had dismissed the complaint. However, the Supreme Court ended up accepting it.

In December 2017, Arica indefinitely extended the contract with Puerta Norte while waiting for a tender from the Superintendency of Gaming Casinos (SCJ, for its Spanish acronym). However, the city renewed the contract for two years, unlike other municipal casinos in the same position.

Later, another extension expressly eliminated the initial two-year term. This pushed the concession beyond the time frame the original extension allowed. As a result, Casino Luckia drew the line and took the matter to court.

Legal Battles

Espíndola maintained that he did everything by the book. He explained that, in conjunction with the Municipal Council, the government implemented emergency decisions to avoid the casino’s imminent closure.

The earlier victories in the court system were a testament to the efforts and made the Supreme Court’s decision puzzling.

Another legal challenge could arrive from within the upper ranks of Chile’s political system. After meeting with the SCJ, Vivien Villagrán, Senator José Miguel Durana and Representative Enrique Lee expect an “in-depth analysis” of the legal codes that governed the Supreme Court’s decision. Depending on the outcome, they might try to get the court to reconsider its ruling.

They also emphasized Espíndola’s role in the failure. The lawmakers highlighted his decisions as contributing to the outcome, but they expressed more concern over the loss of jobs and money the closure means. Hundreds of people are out of work, and the regional government is out CL$1,000m (USD$1 million) in annual tax revenue.

Lemons Into Lemonade

The casino closed this week, but Espíndola is already looking ahead to the next chapter. He stated that he is evaluating the possibility of transforming the site into a cultural center.

The mayor pointed out that Arica is the only region in Chile without one. He wants the building to become a hub for “traditional entertainment activities” and “artistic expression.”

It could also provide work for some of the former casino’s displaced employees. However, many could move to the competition. Puerta Norte is working with Luckia to find positions for as many of its former workers as the rival can take.

There are around two dozen casinos in Chile, a drop from the 36 that operated in 2018. If Luckia can’t find jobs for them, perhaps the others can.