Legalized gambling on the way for Mexico
By Paul
Controversial legislation currently proceeding through the Mexican Congress could allow the creation of over a dozen casinos at popular Mexican tourist destinations and border cities, including Tijuana.

A congressional analysis determined that Mexico could be a $3 billion-a-year gambling market, creating 155,000 jobs and pouring millions more into the country’s economy.

Casino officials at Indian reservations in San Diego County are monitoring the progress of the legislation, but say they don't believe a casino in Tijuana will appreciably affect gambling north of the border. There are nine casinos operating on Indian reservations, five of them in North county.

The measure being debated in Mexico's house of representatives would alter a 55-year-old law that prohibits most forms of gambling. Even so, there is an estimated $500-million-a-year gambling industry in Mexico operating in a legal gray area, including sports betting, horse racing, cockfights and casinos.

Advocates of the new law say gambling in Mexico is untaxed and unregulated.

'We can't continue to believe that by ignoring the problem it will cease to exist,' said Luz del Carmen Lopez Rivera, a congresswoman who supports legalizing gambling. 'Lack of rules propagates clandestine arrangements, bribes and all the vices that result from an activity without any control.'

Opponents of the measure say gambling will attract drug cartels, money-laundering operations and will feed gambling addictions.

Contrary to other former efforts to legalize gambling, the bill - named the Federal Law on Gambling Games, Sweepstakes and Casinos – is supported by Mexico's three largest political parties and President Vicente Fox, in addition to major labor unions and the hotel and tourism industries.

'I am in favor of casinos, in a regulated and controlled way, above all if they are in areas frequented by tourists,' Fox said last year at a tourism convention.

Business leaders argue that the law will bolster Mexico's sagging tourism industry.

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