Proposed casino bill won’t require checks of owners

A legislative committee has approved and passed to the full Asamblea Legislativa a bill that would tax casinos and gambling call centers, but the redrafted measure avoids regulations of ownership and employees.

The bill restricts casinos to four- or five-star hotels although free-standing casinos and casinos now in three-star hotels are grandfathered into the law.

The bill would assess a monthly fee for each gambling table and slot machine on the casino premises. The rates vary depending on the daily hours of operation.

Casinos originally were considered a lure to attract tourists, but Costa Ricans make up the bulk of those who gamble, based on observations at Central Valley casinos. Still, the proposed law allocates the number of gambling tables to the number of rooms in the adjacent hotel. A hotel with 60 rooms can have 10 gaming tables and 60 slot machines, according to the proposed law. For each additional 10 guest rooms, a casino operator can install one additional gambling table and 10 more slot machines up to a total of 400.

Casinos that are operating 10 hours or less would pay $300 a month for each gambling table and $40 for each slot machine.

For casinos that are open more than 10 hours, the monthly tax is $500 for each gaming table and $80 for each slot machine.

Betting call centers are assessed an annual tax based on the number of employees. Up to 20 employees, the tax is $50,000. From 21 to 60 employees, the
tax is $75,000. From 61 to 100, the tax is $100,000. Call centers with more than 100 employees would pay $150,000.

The money collected from these taxes would not be used to defray the growing national deficit. All money goes to the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública, according to the text.

The text was revised in committee, and rules to require police checks on casino owners or employees have been eliminated. The original drafts proposed a system of licensing for casino workers.

The new draft continues the rule that casinos cannot open before 1 p.m. and must close by 5 a.m. The draft also eliminated a proposal to tax each gambling bet.

The new taxes would seem to be in addition to the usual income tax required of all Costa Rican corporations. The new draft does not say if the monthly taxes are deductible.

The draft exempts the national lotteries run by the Junta de Protección Social, raffles and similar run by the Cruz Roja and other organizations that run gambling for charitable purposes.

The new draft also warns casino operators that they are subject to anti-drug, money laundering and terrorism financing laws and requires anyone connected with casinos or call centers to report any suspicious activity.

The draft law will be scheduled for debate if it is put on the agenda for the full legislature. The draft came from the Comisión Permanente de Asuntos Hacendarios, the same entity that also sent a new value-added tax proposal to the legislature.

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