After 40 years in operation, the casino at the Condado Plaza Hilton in Puerto Rico recently closed, putting 144 employees out of work. It’s the seventh casino to close in Puerto Rico in the past five years, according to the island’s Hotel & Tourism Association. Currently 20 casinos operate on the island, with 90 percent local patrons, not tourists, according to the Hotel & Tourism Association.
Managing Director Raul Bustamente said the Condado Hilton casino closure follows a 40 percent drop in slot play over the past decade. He added the casino may be turned into a ballroom. “We now want to focus on areas where we’ve had good business–rooms and banquets,” Bustamante said.
The island, with a population of 3.5 million, is entering its ninth year of recession and challenged by a 12.6 percent unemployment rate. The government is working with creditors to renegotiate some of its $72 billion debt load.
The Condado Hilton casino closure “is a significant impact,” said Hotel & Tourism Association President Miguel Vega. Previous casino closures caused a $6 million drop in revenue, government officials said. They blame the closures in part on an estimated 45,000 illegal gambling machines in operation across the island, although the government has seized hundreds of machines in raids.
Another Hilton hotel, the El San Juan Resort & Casino in Isla Verde, recently was purchased for $71 million by Fundamental Advisors, along with partners Leon Mayer & Co. and Aimbridge Hospitality.
And the Paulson & Co hedge fund announced it will buy and renovate the San Juan Beach Hotel in Condado for $20 million. The 96-room property filed bankruptcy earlier this year. Paulson also owns the opulent Condado Vanderbilt, the St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort and La Concha Resort. Fund manager John Paulson said Puerto Rico is the “Singapore of the Caribbean.” last year at an investment summit.