Puerto Rico Drafts Sports Betting Bill

With support from their Governor, Puerto Rico lawmakers design a bill that will bring sports betting to the island.

Representative Nestor Alonso Vega, the head of the House Tourism Committee in Puerto Rico, has introduced a measure that would allow legal sports betting to occur inside the U.S territory.

Vega’s bill requires the establishment of a new commission that oversees the regulations necessary to enact sports gambling inside the island.

Seven individuals from the public and private business industry will work hand-in-hand with Puerto Rico’s Financial Institutions Office to create regulations.

In line with most states, Puerto Rico would tax the casino or betting establishment 6% for an onsite bet and 11% for online wagers.

The bill gives special treatment to horse betting agencies who are already up and running on the island.

Why does the Puerto Rico bill have a solid chance of passing?

The bill has a clear path to passing due to the blessing of Governor Ricardo Roselló.

With Puerto Rico still reeling from the economic damage of Hurricane Maria in late 2017, the island relies on money coming in from tourism.

Roselló believes that by introducing legalized sports betting on the island, tourism will see a huge financial boost.

“This industry has the potential to convert Puerto Rico into a jurisdiction in the vanguard of allowing the establishment of this new model, which will have a positive effect on our economy,” Roselló said.

“We have worked on aggressive legislation that aspires at being able to market the island at the international and national levels as an attractive destination for the millions of people who bet on sports events.”

Early estimates place the taxes generated by sports wagering at somewhere between $44 and $66 million per year for Puerto Rico.

Roselló wants the tax revenue to create programs that would dissuade young adults from addiction and problem gambling.

Also, money would be earmarked for improving the infrastructure of the police force and for better educational programs.

By creating a strong bill, Roselló believes that Puerto Ricans will be better protected against the pitfalls of gambling.

“ (This) legislation provides for all the security safeguards to exist in order to guarantee that children under 18 do not participate in these games,” Roselló said.

”It will also firmly address those problems of gambling addiction that may arise. These matters are a priority, as well as providing adequate control to avoid money laundering and tax evasion.”

What are the potential problems in the Puerto Rico bill?

For an island still returning to health after a massive storm and facing a severe debt crisis, the revenue from sports gambling is needed.

But critics of the measure feel that the government’s revenue estimates are wildly inflated.

Puerto Rico has only 3.2 million residents and a tourism industry that is just beginning to get back to pre-Maria levels.

Believing that the island will pull in twice what a state like New Jersey does in a year of sports gambling tax is quite ambitious, according to the bill’s critics.

Even with the debate over how much revenue will come to the territory with sports wagering, Puerto Rico will not have the foundation in place until the Spring of 2020 at the earliest.

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