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3,000 Jobs Gone? Why?

June 9th, 2008

I always try to remember that I am just a guest here in Costa Rica. That even though I am a Permanent Resident with all the rights of a citizen, sans voting, I do not have the right to tell Costa Rica how to run their country. This is often very hard to do, especially if the actions or laws affect those of us living here.

Most foreigners living here feel they do have that right. Perhaps they do. Certainly, it is hard to not form opinions and even harder to keep those opinions to yourself. However, I have yet to hear of a case where a North American was asked his opinion on an issue by anyone in the government.

Saying that, there are times when the government does something that to me just makes no sense whatsoever. A few weeks ago, the government announced a new policy that for the life of me I did not understand and still do not understand.

The announcement I am referring to involved a edict telling casino operators that henceforth they would be limited to allowing casino gambling only from the hours or 6 PM to 2 AM. Further, casinos must be part of, meaning inside, the hotel. Costa Rica’s casinos are for the most part inside the hotels, but a few, like the large Fiesta Casino near the San Jose airport, are not attached to any hotel, though it is across the street from the Garden Court. Other rules included no direct access from the street, and rules about alcohol being served.

I thought immediately of the huge sums of money that these companies had invested in building the casinos. Really, invested in Costa Rica. I thought of the tourists that would be affected. I thought of the thousands of Ticos employed by the casinos. Basically I just asked myself why would they do such a thing? Tourism is the cash cow of Costa Rica. Why do anything to screw that up? Why take the chance of losing just one tourist?

I read a statement by someone in the tourism bureau that visitors to Costa Rica do not come here for the gambling and I thought “This guy is making decisions that affect thousands of jobs and a ton of tourists, yet has not a clue as to what he is talking about!

While technically he is right and gambling may not be the prime reason for choosing Costa Rica as a vacation spot, I know that when most people make their vacation plans, they take into consideration things to do as a family, things their kids can do, and things they can do as adults, especially if there are no kids on the trip. When I do play at the Fiesta, Del Rey, Cariari (now Doubletree) and others, those are not Ticos I am sitting next to! Most are foreigners and they are tourists. Lots of people, especially from the US do look to see if gambling is available probably because so many states prohibit it and vacation is a great time for some harmless sinning!

Why is it so hard for Ticos to realize that tourism is a business, and if they want their share of those vacation dollars, they sure better offer services at least equal to all the other Caribbean vacation spots. They should be thinking of offering more services, not less.

If that is not enough, the cutback in hours and the closing entirely of some casinos would mean the loss of 3,000 jobs. 3,000 jobs would be a big deal in the US with what, close to 300 million people? The population of Costa Rica is under 5 million. 3,000 jobs. Incredible. For what?

I like to play Blackjack, or as that is not really available here, the Costa Rican version called Rummy. I play maybe every two months or so, so I am far from being a regular client. Still, it means I could now go only at night, and as that is the time I spend with my wife, I can not go when I want and now, maybe not at all. I felt really irritated.

I waited all this time to blog about this as I wanted to see if this would be read into the legal newspaper which is the final step in activation of any new law in Costa Rica. It was. I thought to myself that certainly someone would come to their senses and stop this silliness. They didn’t. It is now law. One newspaper on May 9 informed the readers that this law was now being enforced.

So this week, when I had an opportunity to meet with a client in the Del Rey Hotel (at 11:00 AM), I was surprised to see the casino operating all tables! Hmmm! How could this be? A quick stop at the Fiesta showed me that they too were open in the afternoon. Huh? What happened to the new law? Were the jobs lost? What happened to the law? Shrug.

Odd huh? Makes me wonder why I wrote this post.

Life in the tropics.

Costa Rica! No Artificial Ingredients! A types need not apply.

5 Responses to “3,000 Jobs Gone? Why?”

  1. S. Eby on June 10, 2008 9:43 pm

    This writer has no idea that Costa Rica is (and has been) a heaven only because Ticos have throughout history taken care of this country like no other in Latin America. This is the reason why Costa Rica will never be a tourist magnet for ‘sinning’ foreigners as the writer calls it or crazy ‘Spring-Breakers’ that trash the country. Furthermore, Costa Rica does not want to compete with other countries with more ‘services’ such as Mexico and instead, it makes every effort to attract only environmentally conscious tourists (thus its mantra ‘eco-tourism’). In my view, the well educated workers of Costa Rica can forgo such casino jobs for others more rewarding and less damaging to society and in the long run, higher paying jobs. And don’t forget there is after all, a very good reason why Casinos can’t open their doors (read jobs) wherever they want in almost every region of the world. There is an irrefutable impact to the area where Casinos operate, which is more often than not, a negative one. Ticos don’t need more Casinos. Let those Casino-driven tourists go to Aruba, Mexico or any other places where they will be completely and utterly catered to while Costa Rica preserves its fabulous way of life. Viva Costa Rica!

  2. Doug Headedtothailand on June 11, 2008 12:36 am

    How about that new “law” that prohibits you from wearing shorts to the hospital but OIJ wont even fill out paperwork for a theft if it’s not for items over $600 in value ?
    Costa Rica. The new El Salvador……….

  3. Mats on June 11, 2008 1:47 am

    Wild guess – the law was introduced as a result of international pressure (perhaps from the US or the U.N.) or as part of an international trade agreement, with no intention of actually enforcing it.

  4. Tim on June 11, 2008 7:43 am

    Doug: I know of no such law as the “shorts rule”. While you are correct that many hospitals and a few government offices prohibit wearing of shorts, it is not law. It is their policy and their rules, and frankly, I agree with it (though I was irritated as hell the first time I was visiting my brother and had to return home to change clothes!)

    Mats: No, not pressure from the outside. Not sure the real reason. Some say they passed it only to discourage a Russian gambling consortium from coming to CR. Quien sabe!

  5. Brian on November 1, 2008 2:08 pm

    Interesting, Tim…

    I wondered the same things that you mention when I heard about the “Hours Limitations” and other new rules that were to be imposed on the casinos earlier this year. It all seemed a bit (monetarily, anyway) counterproductive. Like them or not, the casinos are foreign tourist cash cows for the country.

    Most of my Tico friends seemed to believe that these new rules were tied in with a coming, wider-spread crackdown & general governmental “discouragement” of all things gambling-related in Costa Rica, a lot of my friends believe that the entire Sportbook Industry will be sent packing in the relatively near future. I have no idea how true any of that is, I’m a high tech Gringo outta Baltimore who’s lived & worked here for about 4 years, most of my Tico & Tica friends are hi-tech types as well.. Many of whom started out as tech support with the Sportbooks.

    I wondered at the time whether the rules had more to do with anti-crime initiative, or something similar. Personal observations have led me to conclude that the Del Rey, Fiesta, and a few of the other casinos in Centro are not just the place to go to gamble, but also full of tourists (and Ticos) looking to purchase and consume drugs. Particularly the white powdery one from Columbia. And, like any city with an area where lotsa $$ changes hands for prostitutes & narcotics, there’s a 1 block radius crimewave around most of those areas, for many hours of the day.. Eby, I respectfully disagree with the statement that Costa Rica will never be a magnet for “sinning foreigners” – If you’ve ever been to DelRey Casino/Hotel on a Friday, Saturday, or pretty much any other night, – heck, it’s wall to wall “sinning foreigners”. I’ve met guys from all over the world that have been “Touristing”? here for 20 years, they fly down (or over, whatever) a couple of times a year to “Sin in various ways”. Some are great people. Some are not. Not judging, just observing & reporting reality as I’ve seen it. & Eby, I’m not a fan of the prostitution or drug connections with the casinos, I think it’s a shame, and a blight on central San Jose, and the country. On the other hand, the ammount of money that this segment of tourists brings into the country is I would suspect significant… Interesting conundrum.

    Interesting that the “Hours Rules” aren’t being enforced, kinda makes me wonder whether what Mats brought up – the whole thing may be a part of an international agreement, never intended to be enforced, might be true.

    Anyway, Nice meeting you all-