Casino pioneer celebrates 30 years in business here

A.M. Costa Rica/Daniel Woodall
Mimes become living statues to welcome guests to the casino Saturday night.

Running a company successfully for several years is a triumph, as anyone in business would agree.

The Casino Colonial marked its 30th birthday Saturday, an achievement that can be attributed directly to its owner, Shelby McAdams.

Some of the casino owners in Costa Rica come with a lot of baggage.

At least one former owner is in U.S. federal prison. But there is seldom a hint of scandal at the Casino Club Colonial. McAdams threw a party Saturday that was consistent with the upscale image of the casino.

The staff at the Magnolia Restaurant in the casino, under the direction of Adrián Vera, put on a five-star buffet for invited guests. And then McAdams opened the food line to everyone in the casino.

There were human statutes, free whiskey, two kinds of live music and casino workers dressed to the nines.

McAdams was a pioneer in gambling in Costa Rica. The first Casino Colonial, opened in 1982, was across Avenida 1 from the current structure. Like all businessmen, McAdams is subject to economic changes. But casino owners in Costa Rica also are big targets for politicians who want more of the money and want to look good for the voters. They forget that casino operators also have gigantic expenses.

President Laura Chinchilla has zeroed in on casinos. Officials have restricted the hours and have jacked up the tax. And this is just the latest effort. News files are full of articles in which politicians see casinos as cash cows.

McAdams has not only weathered all the political challenges, his firm has thrived. In 2005 the firm opened the Sleep Inn Hotel, now called Hotel Paseo de las Damas after the name of the street at the front door. Having a hotel is a requisite for a major Costa Rican casino.

The Magnolia Restaurant has been in business for 16 years. Some of the guests Friday were Costa Rican women who frequently interrupt their trips downtown with a quiet lunch at the Magnolia. The bar-restaurant inside the Colonial also is a favorite of U.S. expats seeking a late breakfast or a full dinner.

McAdams made an appearance Saturday and was warmly greeted by employees, former employees, business associates and just those who recognize his business achievement.

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