|Legalized casino gambling could soon return to Mexico after more than 70 years, a former U.S. ambassador to that country said Tuesday, according to a report from Associated Press.|
'I think they are going to make a real effort to pass legalized gambling this year (in Mexico),' said James Jones, now co-chairman for Manatt Jones Global Strategies, during the American Gaming Summit 2002 at the Bellagio hotel-casino.
Jones told gambling industry executives, analysts and investors that Mexico’s push towards legalized gambling is down to a need for tax revenue, and the problem of illegal gambling. 'There are an estimated 1,500 illegal gambling parlors that exist (in Mexico),' said Jones, who served as the US ambassador to Mexico from 1993-97. If those operations were regulated and taxed, the government estimates it could receive an estimated half billion dollars in annual tax revenues, Jones said, adding that legislation to legalize gambling is expected to be introduced during the next session of the Mexican Congress that meets March 15-April.
Jones puts the chances at 70% that comprehensive gambling legislation for all forms of gambling will be passed. There are several issues, however, that must be resolved first, including the roles of federal, state and local governments in granting licenses and how many licenses should be awarded and where. 'Some say they should be restricted to resort areas. ... others think it should be opened up to each state,' Jones said.
The regulations also must meet the same standards as Nevada's gambling laws, or 'no one is going to risk a license here to go to Mexico,' Jones said. If approved, the law would be effective immediately, allowing applicants to begin applying for gambling licenses by August.
A U.S. developer's proposal to build a casino and luxury hotel in the border city of Reynosa, Mexico, is one project that's dependent on congressional approval of a bill allowing casinos.
If built, the Nevada Palace Hotel and Casino is expected to generate more than $12 million in sales to tourists for the city of 340,000, said Patricio Mora Dominguez, president of Mexico's private International Tourist and Entertainment Center.
Mexican President Vicente Fox has said he favors overturning national laws barring gambling if new casinos are built 'in areas frequented by foreign tourists.'