Chileans spending more at casinos

Chileans spent an average of 28,000 pesos per person (US$52) per casino visit through the first half of the year, 13.2 percent more than they spend during the same period last year.

The highest average spend occurred at the country’s three largest casinos: Monticello Grand Casino in Mostazal, where spending increased from $68 to $75, at Enjoy Antofagasta, where it rose from $42 to $55, and at Marina del Sol in Talcahuano, up from $35 per visit to $51.

Nor surprisingly, gross gaming revenue across the industry in the first half of 2009 increased dramatically, up 78.1 percent, bringing the total for the first half to $84.8 million.

Officials attribute the increases to the marketing of casinos and gambling as an entertaining activity rather than an industry.

Investment in casino-related projects in Chile has increased 36 percent since 2008, from $547.5 million to $743.5 million.

George Garcelon, general manager of Monticello Grand Casino, agreed. “It’s all about entertainment.”



URUGUAY'S CASINOS SEEKING INVESTORS

Uruguay’s government is launching a tender process this month for private companies interested in investing to develop mixed-use resorts at 24 venues operated by Casinos del Estado in the interior of the country.

“Gaming is to be at the service of a touristic project and an important local development,” said National Director of Casinos Fernando Nopitsch, who was quoted in the newspaper El Pais.

Minister of the Economy Alvara Garcia explained that the projects will be used to “boost the development of infrastructures in different places that have to do with tourism, sport, commercial or cultural activities.”

The government’s aim is to strengthen sectors that lack adequate funding as a result of “budget problems that involve restrictions to invest in items such as tourism or sports,” he said.

A commission composed of representatives from the Economy and Tourism ministries and the local governments involved will choose the best investment plans for the venues, most of which are slot halls. They are located close to the border with Brazil in Chuy, Acegüa, Río Branco and Laguna Merín and in Paysandú, Flores, Florida, Mercedes and Fray Bentos.



CIRSA'S RIO CASINO OPENS IN MEDELLÍN

Winner Group Cirsa, a division of the Spanish gaming giant, has brought its RIO Casino brand to the Colombian city of Medellín.

The new casino, built at a cost of US$6 million, features 300 slot machines, 25 table games, an eight-table poker room, a 500-seat theater, a café, a lounge and gourmet restaurant and 4,500 square meters of entertainment, exhibition and meeting space.

There is also an exclusive VIP room offering the best limits in the city, Cirsa says, on roulette, blackjack, baccarat and poker.



CITY CENTER COMPLEX A FIRST FOR ROSARIO

Argentina’s City Center Rosario is scheduled to open this month as the first development in the community with a luxury hotel, a convention center and a casino in one location.

The facility also will offer a swimming pool and spa/salon, a restaurant and coffee shop, a buffet and a duty-free shop. There also will be a game arcade for children on the first floor, adjoining the convention facilities and a business center.

The second floor will contain tennis courts in addition to the spa, swimming pool and a fitness center.

The sizable casino will offer 2,000 slot machines, 80 table games and 50 bingo positions.

The complex is located in the south area of the city, just at the end of the highway to Buenos Aires.



ENJOY RECORDS LOSS FOR FIRST SIX MONTHS

Chile’s largest casino operator, Enjoy, posted a loss of US$13.5 million between January and June.

In the same period last year, the company registered a profit of $5.3 million.

“This less utility is due mainly to a smaller operation result,” the company said.

Operating income was down significantly, from $11.5 million in the first six months of 2008, to $5.7 million this year.

Losses not directly associated with operations were significant as well, totaling $18 million, compared to $1 million in the same period in 2008

Enjoy netted about US$42 million in an initial public offering this summer. The funds will be used to help finance a $335 million expansion plan, Chief Executive Javier Martinez said, which includes new casinos in the Chilean city of Puerto Varas and the Chiloe archipelago and possible expansion in Eastern Europe.

The company currently operates in Antofagasta, Coquimbo, Viña del Mar, Santa Cruz and Pucon and in the Argentine city of Mendoza.



GUYANA'S FIRST CASINO DEBUTS IN OCTOBER

Guyana’s first casino, The Princess Casino Guyana, is scheduled to open next month operated by Princess Group Hotels & Casinos.

The Turkish company is investing US$2 million to build the casino and upgrade a local hotel near the capital of Georgetown, providing a total of 150 jobs. Gambling will be restricted to hotel guests.

Despite opposition from church groups, government officials are offering casino permits to anyone who builds a hotel in the country with more than 150 rooms, the goal being to attract tourism.

Guyana has private clubs that run unofficial betting parlors, but The Princess is the first to receive a formal permit.

Princess also owns hotels in Suriname, the Dominican Republic and Belize.