Puerto Rico Online, In-Person Sports Betting Proposal Likely to Soon Get Approval from Gov. Ricardo Rossello

Posted on: July 7, 2019, 05:44h. 

Last updated on: July 7, 2019, 05:44h.

Legal sports betting is moving ahead in Puerto Rico as legislation probably will be signed promptly by Gov. Ricardo Rossello. It is seen as a way to promote tourism and improve the Caribbean island’s struggling economy.

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello is likely to soon sign a sports betting bill that will help generate needed revenue for the island. (Image: Rolling Stone)

A bill — PC2038 — was approved by the US territory’s legislature last weekend. It will allow for athletic wagering at online and brick and mortar locations, and regulates fantasy sports and esports gambling.

Land-based sports betting will take place at casinos, racetracks and off-track wagering venues. It will also be available at those locations that formerly held cockfighting, until that once popular activity was prohibited.

The new legislation imposes a 7 percent tax on gross gaming revenue (GGR) for brick and mortar venues. Online sports betting will be taxed at 12 percent.

Initially, legislators had considered a 6 percent tax on GGR at land-based venues and 11.5 percent for online sites, according to iGB North America. Operator’s licenses will cost at least $2,500 to $50,000 depending on the size of the sports betting operation.

The island is projected to raise between $29 million and $87 million in revenue from athletic wagering annually over the next several years, according to a study from the Innovation Group. Another study, undertaken by the Spectrum Gaming Group, projects annual revenue will total between $44 million and $62 million.

Money raised from sports betting will be divided by the government among pension funds, police, schools, health insurance and recreation programs. A small amount will go to programs for problem gamblers.

The bill also sets up a Gambling Commission, which will be led by seven board members, and a commissioner. Also, the legislation prohibits any sports betting venue near a school, religious property or addiction treatment site.

Island May Become Sports Betting Destination

Puerto Rico already has casinos and horse racing. With sports betting, Puerto Rico officials predict more tourists will visit the island.

We have worked on aggressive legislation that aspires at being able to market the island at the international and national levels as an attractive destination for the millions of people who bet on sports events,” Rossello said in an earlier statement quoted by Caribbean Business.

He also noted that “electronic games are a growing segment” — and are especially popular with younger individuals. “We can position Puerto Rico as a destination that promotes esports, in order to attract investment to the Puerto Rican economy.”

Recovering from Hurricane Maria

The sports betting initiative comes as Puerto Rico continues to recover from the destruction caused by Hurricane Maria in 2017. Maria was Category 4 storm when it hit Puerto Rico.

The island’s power grid, infrastructure and agricultural sector were heavily damaged by the hurricane. Tourism was negatively impacted, too.

More than 1.6 million non-resident guests stayed overnight on the island in 2017. In 2018, 1.3 million non-residents stayed overnight.

These amounts do not include passengers who visit the island on cruise ships. This year, an estimated 1.7 million cruise passengers will visit Puerto Rico, according to government estimates.

Even before the hurricane, Puerto Rico was facing possible bankruptcy. The island had a $73 billion debt before Maria caused extensive damage and hurt the island’s economy.

Several US mainland states unfurled sports betting last year after the US Supreme Court in May rejected a ban that had been put into place by the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PAPSA) in 1992. As a US territory, Puerto Rico also was given the legal green light for sports betting given the high court’s ruling.