Casinos Reopen in Mexico City

This week, the Mexico City Government determined that it would allow casinos to reopen in the region following a drop in hospitalizations for COVID-19. The decision was met with criticism from local authorities, because coronavirus cases have, in fact, continued to rise in the region. According to authorities, this was a decision borne out of financial necessity. The government has established set opening hours for casinos, as well as strict maximum capacity guidelines.

A man sits on the ground making wire crafts in Mexico.

The decision to reopen Mexico City’s casinos is a purely financial one. ©gavinseim/Pixabay

COVID-19 In Mexico City: The Long Lockdown

The decision made this week to reopen casinos in Mexico City comes after seven months of lockdown for a number of non-essential establishments, including casinos, betting shops, and bowling alleys. With this new lifting of restrictions, all of these establishments will be allowed to reopen, even if lockdown measures are reintroduced.

During Coronavirus, A Piecemeal National Approach

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, Mexico’s President, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (known affectionately as AMLO), has maintained that the government should not set nationwide response protocol. Instead, various cities and municipalities have determined independently how they would like to design their COVID-19 response plan.

Some of the regions of Mexico which have implemented strict coronavirus lockdown measures include Nuevo Leon and Sinaloa, which responded early in the pandemic with strict and total shutdowns of most non-essential public life. One of the very first areas to implement lockdown measures was Cancún, which shuttered casinos in late March.

The Reopening Measures

In mid-October, Claudia Sheinbaum, head of Mexico City’s Government, announced that the city had elected to reopen casinos, bowling alleys, and betting shops out of financial necessity. This decision comes after Mexico City officials began tallying COVID-19 infections independently, believing that AMLO’s administration was not up to the task.

As Sheinbaum emphasized in her remarks, this decision does not mean that things will be back to normal, even in establishments that have reopened. Beginning now, betting shops and casinos can be open from 10 AM until 10 PM, but they must allow only 30% their normal operating capacity in.

Additionally, players can only stay in the facilities for an hour at a time. Employees of the casinos and betting locations will be expected to sanitize and clean the premises regularly and vigorously. Both guests and employees must wear a mask at all times. In a challenging decision, restaurants located in such locations must stay closed.

A Strict Cap on Visitorship

As casinos around the world have moved toward cautiously reopening, all have elected to establish some maximum capacity that is greatly reduced from what it is in normal times. Mexico City’s new maximum capacity, 30%, is stricter than in other places. In Las Vegas, for example, many casinos have settled on 50% of normal visitorship.

Mexico City: A Casino Capital

Mexico City is home to a number of popular casinos, including the Hipodromo de las Americas, Gran Casino Frontón México, Palace Bingo & Sport Bets Casino Insurgentes, PlayCIty Casino, King’s Casino, Big Bola Casinos Santa Fe, and Casino Life. All of these locations will now be allowed to reopen, with limited hours and visitorship.

Mexico City Government’s Other Gambling Push

In addition to these new reopening measures, Mexico City’s government has implemented a new incentive for customers to participate in the city lottery. Until December 31, 2020, the 6% tax on lottery prizes will be temporarily lifted. This is reportedly because Mexico City’s lottery is in desperate need of additional revenue.

In August of this year, the Mexico City lottery asked the city for its permission to invest the equivalent of $1.5 million (USD). This money would be used to revitalize now-ancient machines used by lottery officials. According to the organizers of the city lottery, close to 25% of the machines used to run Mexico City’s lottery have fallen into dire disrepair.

Casinos Slowly Reopen In Latin America

Mexico City is just the latest city in Latin America finally reopening its casinos and betting houses after months of lockdown. In the last few weeks, government officials in both Costa Rica and Bogotá, Colombia determined that casinos would be allowed to finally reopen. Like Mexico City’s officials, these governments set in place strict reopening protocols.

In Bogotá, this means that all 532 reopening casinos and betting shops will have adjusted opening hours and reduced maximum capacity, just like in Mexico City. Also like in Mexico City, Bogotá casinos will no longer be serving food or drinks to customers, a decision that not all casinos worldwide have made.

In Costa Rica, the reopening measures mean that only casinos located inside hotels will be allowed to reopen. This comes out of a greater desire in the country to breathe new life into Costa Rica’s tourism economy, which has withered during the COVID-19 pandemic. Casinos will be allowed to serve 50% of their normal operating capacity.

Reopenings, Despite Ominous Numbers

The decision of government officials around Latin America to reopen gambling establishments comes purely out of financial necessity, a fact that government officials themselves are quick to establish. As the pandemic has raged on, Latin America has become one of the global epicenters of the pandemic.

Today, Peru, Brazil, and Mexico hover high in the global total of coronavirus cases. In Mexico, once Mexico City officials began tallying COVID-19 infections independently of AMLO’s federal government counts, the number of known coronavirus cases skyrocketed. Today, Mexico has the fourth-highest COVID-19 infection rate in the world.

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