Casinos Not To Reopen In Costa Rica Yet

As Costa Rica unveiled its plan to lift some of its coronavirus-related lockdown measures, casinos were not included in the businesses allowed to reopen. Across Central and Latin America, countries have presented far from a unified front on the subject of business activity in light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. In some countries, like Argentina and Colombia, the governments have been strict on lockdowns, while in others, like Brazil and Mexico, leaders are eager to resume economic activity.

A black-and-white photograph of a white coffee cup reading COSTA.

Eventually, restaurants will be able to reopen this summer in Costa Rica — but not casinos. ©Mateusz Dach/Pexels

What’s To Come in Costa Rica

In a recent statement, Costa Rica President Carlos Alvarado announced an 80 day plan for the next phase of reopening the region following strict coronavirus lockdown measures. This second phase will move the country into the summer, and demonstrates the hopes for normalcy held by President Alvarado come September.

Unfortunately, however, casinos are not as yet a part of President Alvarado’s stated plans for Costa Rica. As of right now, President Alvarado’s plans for reopening the country begin by extending the open hours of shops, hotels, and national parks. By August, President Alvarado hopes to reopen beaches and even schools.

Of course, even these visions are uncertain, as both President Alvarado and Health Minister Daniel Salas have acknowledged that if recorded coronavirus cases in Costa Rica increase as a result of this leniency, stricter lockdown measures will be put back into place. In total, the new plan for Costa Rica spans eleven weeks.

Phases of Costa Rica’s Reopening Plan

The first phase will span from May 16 to 31. Phase two will last from June 1 to 20. Phase three will run June 21 to July 11, and phase four will run from July 12 to August 2. During this time, President Alvarado explained, citizens will be reminded of the importance of personal hygiene and social distancing.

In phase one, national parks may be reopened, allowing in 50% of their normal visitors. Beaches will reopen with limited hours, and some recreational sports. Restricted hours on car use will be eased up, and the hours shifted. Businesses which meet the necessary qualifications, hotels, and motels may open for business, with restrictions.

In phase two, more national parks and public parks will be allowed to reopen, also working at 50% capacity. Similarly, museums will be allowed to reopen, allowing in 50% of their usual allowed number of visitors. Restaurants will be allowed to reopen to 50% capacity on weekends, and restrictions will ease for hotels.

In phase three, hotels will be able to open to 50% capacity on the weekends. Religious places of worship will be able to reopen with restrictions — ensuring that everyone is social distancing, and a maximum of 75 people present. Cinemas, bars, and sports centers will be allowed to reopen to 50% capacity, with restrictions.

Finally, in phase four, 100 people will be allowed in places of worship, but social distancing guidelines must be followed. Beaches will be opened with extended hours. Officials hope that during this time, schools will be allowed to reopen. For this phase, restrictions are not yet spelled out and will depend on the progression of the virus as the reopening proceeds.

Explicitly: No Casinos

Unfortunately, included in the spelled-out progression of the new phases from Costa Rica’s government is an explicit reference to activities which will not be permitted during the increased leniency. This includes amusement parks, discotheques and dance halls, mass gatherings and public shows, community fairs, and casinos and gambling activities.

Another Possibility: iGaming

As the coronavirus pandemic threatens the livelihood of casinos in Costa Rica, one possible venue through which gambling businesses can stay afloat in the country is through online gaming and betting options. One such example is Betcris, which has its company headquarters in Costa Rica.

Betcris is an online sports betting platform, which has adapted to the crisis by allowing 300 of its employees to work from home. Additionally, the company has moved quickly, allowing bettors to place their bets on anything from current events to e-sports to ensure that entertaining bets can still happen as sports matches worldwide have been canceled.

Across Central and Latin America, Dispute Over Casinos During COVID

As the coronavirus has come to Central and Latin America, each region has selected to approach the spread of the virus entirely differently from its neighbors. Some, like Costa Rica, Colombia, and Argentina have opted for strict lockdown measures, including that casinos will be closed for the foreseeable future.

In other countries, like Mexico, the federal government has not legislated rules in regard to the coronavirus, leaving the choice up to the country’s 32 states to determine how they should proceed. This has meant that in many parts of the country, casinos have remained open in an attempt to preserve business as usual during this crisis.

Similarly, a lawmaker in Brazil has offered a hard sell to reopen casinos during the coronavirus, arguing that tax revenue from increased gambling could save the country’s economy, which has been in recession for six years. In order to do this, Brazil would have to officially legalize gambling, a stance the country has not yet taken.

Costa Rica and Coronavirus

So far, Costa Rica has received international acclaim for how it has handled the coronavirus crisis, which has challenged the leadership of countries around the world. Infections have spread more slowly in Costa Rica compared to other places, and as recently as May 13, the country had had only 7 deaths from the novel virus.

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