Operators of gambling call centers will have to pay up to $82,000 a year in taxes under the same proposed law.
The bill, No. 17.551, singles out these types of business for special treatment in order to create a tax for citizen security. The measure was designed to provide money to the security ministry, but an amendment passed Thursday when the bill got its first approval appears to funnel all the money to the Ministerio de Justicia y Paz for prison construction.
The taxes in the bill are set according to a base salary, which is described in the law as the monthly pay of an auxiliar administrativo 1 who works in the Poder Judicial. That pay is now 360,600 colons.
The tax bill says that casino operator will have to pay 10 percent of a base salary for each slot machine. One of the biggest collections of slot machines is at the Casino Colonial in downtown San José. A reporter counted 180 of the electronic devices there Saturday night.
That means once the law goes into effect three months after publication the Casino Colonial management will have to pay about 649,000 colons a month or about $13,000.
About half the machines were in use Saturday night.
The casino also has about 10 traditional gambling tables. The tax for each will be 60 percent of a base salary or 216,360 colons, some $436. So the casino also will have to pay 2,163,600 colons each month or about $4,358.
Casino Colonial also has three automatic roulette machines, a device that is not addressed in the draft of the law.
There are six legal casinos in walking distance from the Plaza de la Cultura in downtown San José. Each has a significant number of slot machines and gambling tables.
Each casino operator also will have to remit 10 percent of the net income of the operation along with the table and slot machines taxes each month.
Casinos have been a target during the Laura Chinchilla administration. They were forced to curtail their hours and begin charging for the free drinks they were dispensing to gamblers.
Call center operators received a different type of tax because most of the money generated by these operations never reaches Costa Rica. Online gamblers use bank accounts elsewhere.
The bill levies a flat annual tax of 57 base salaries on online gambling operations of up to 50 employees. That is about 20.6 million colons or $41,400. Operations with from 50 to 99 employees pay 85 base salaries or 30.6 million colons ($61,734). Operations with 100 or more employees by 113 base salaries or 40.7 million colons or $82,070.
Call center operators have been poised to move if a stiff tax were enacted. The online operations are highly portable although some companies own their own real estate here.
Casino operators most likely will reduce the number of slot machines and the number of gaming tables.
As with many taxes in Costa Rica, the money paid by the casino and call center operators are not deductible for income tax purposes.
Most observers expect some form of court appeal from the casinos and the call centers. However, according to the online file at the Asamblea Legislativa, the Sala IV already has reviewed the text.
There also could be surprises when the measure is approved, signed by the president and published. There have been some amendments that are not reflected in the latest draft of the law provided by the legislature.