Amid court challenges, gaming regulator issues $1.2 million in fines on VLTs
By The Star Staff
Puerto Rico Gaming Commission Executive Director Orlando Rivera Carrión said over the weekend that since February the commission has issued $1.2 million in fines against VLT (video lottery terminal) or slot machine operators even though the Financial Oversight and Management Board called recently for a stop to new slot machine regulations.
After the Superior Court said the new regulations for gaming machines were invalid and illegal, the commonwealth Supreme Court ruled against that previous ruling and lifted the stay against the regulations. The justices determined that the plaintiffs who challenged the rules’ validity did not have standing.
However, despite the Supreme Court backing the slot machine regulations, the controversy surrounding them continues. There is a pending federal lawsuit on their application, and the Financial Oversight and Management Board meanwhile also ordered that they be put on hold until the entity finishes a review to determine if they comply with the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act, commonly known as PROMESA.
The regulations were promulgated by the Tourism Co. in May 2020. A Superior Court judge had determined that the machines operated illegally because the Tourism Co. did not have jurisdiction to issue the regulations, since the law had changed and it was the Gaming Commission that should have done so. But later, the Court of Appeals revoked the decision on the grounds of the lack of capacity of the plaintiffs, and the Supreme Court upheld that ruling.
Rivera Carrión said a total of 19 establishments that had 221 unauthorized betting machines within their facilities received sanctions from the commission between the months of February and April. The commission supervises slot machines to determine if they are in violation of the Law on Games of Chance.
The cycle of operations began on Feb. 4, when government inspectors made a surprise visit to the Plaza del Mercado de Santurce and found gambling machines at two businesses.
“The Puerto Rico Gaming Commission will continue the frontal assault against activities that are carried out without the proper authorization of the regulatory body, until the illegal betting [machines] are completely eliminated,” Rivera Carrión said. “The business that does not comply with the regulations will be subject to an administrative fine of between $5,000 and $10,000 for each device.”
The most significant fine applied so far was issued against a business in Bayamón, where inspectors found 60 slot machines without the labels and licenses required by law. The penalty was $300,000. Another establishment, also in Bayamón, was fined $110,000 for the same reason.