Colombia Considers Building Casino Oasis in the Desert

Colombia might consider following the path that led Las Vegas to become a global casino capital. It could introduce plans to build a casino city in the middle of nowhere.

Taroa Dunes
Taroa Dunes
A sign welcomes wayward visitors to Taroa Dunes in La Guajira, Colombia. The desolate destination may not be so isolated in a few years if Colombia realizes a project to build a Las Vegas-like city in the area. (Image: Layer Culture)

The head of one of Colombia’s largest gaming bodies hopes “if you build it, they will come” is valid across the board. Evert Montero Cardenas has chaired the Colombian Federation of Entrepreneurs of Games of Luck and Chance (Fecoljuegos, for its Spanish acronym) since 2014.

Montero has helped put Colombian gaming on the map. He’s also responsible for the crusade to put Colombia’s gaming industry back on its feet following the COVID-19 pandemic. Speaking to a local media outlet recently, he hinted at a proposal to establish a Las Vegas-like city in the department of La Guajira.

A Latin American Casino Oasis

The idea is virtually identical to how Las Vegas got its start. There are some major differences, however. Infrastructure, travel and communications are much better now than they were when Pair-o-Dice became the first Vegas casino to open in 1931. In addition, Colombia’s Las Vegas wouldn’t need to rely on mafia money.

Montero admitted that building a casino oasis in the country is a remote possibility, since it requires a large investment. He understands that the first step would be a viability study, which may prove that the idea is nothing more than a pipe dream.

Once, in one of the events that we did from [Fecoljuegos], there was a person who proposed to turn La Guajira into a city similar to Las Vegas because of the arid conditions and that transformation that in the United States was carried out over the Nevada desert as an economic emporium. The initial idea is to create a cluster of this sector in that region,” explained Evert Montero Cardenas.

However, the concept shouldn’t be easily dismissed, either. There are plenty of examples around the world of massive projects finding the necessary money to evolve. Many of them include gambling as an enticement to attract international traffic.

Why La Guajira

There are a number of reasons why La Guajira may be the target for a Las Vegas-style casino oasis. The department sits in the northern part of the country on the Caribbean Sea. Like Nevada, it has plenty of arid plains that can facilitate development.

The average temperatures in the region range from 71F to 94F. The average rainfall in a year is just over 21 inches, most of which falls in September and October.

There are plenty of natural resources in some areas of the department – coal mining and natural gas exploration are big parts of the economy. In the coastal regions, collecting pearls from oysters is a common practice.

Except for the pearls, La Guajira is very similar to Las Vegas, but a little better. The high temperature in Sin City can reach 105F and it only receives around 4.2 inches of rain a year.

Latin American Gaming On the Rise

There are 33 countries in Latin America that are home to over 600 million people. Gambling, both land-based and online, has become big business in the region and isn’t going to slow down anytime soon.

In 2018, the LatAm gaming industry produced revenue of $2.23 billion. That amount is forecast to reach $3.59 billion next year. Argentina, Colombia and Mexico are all witnessing significant year-over-year growth.

In the first nine months of last year, Colombia’s gaming ecosystem grew by 120% compared to the previous year. Over half of the $7.68 billion in revenue the country saw was from land-based operations.

The country continues to expand its gaming operations, using its prior successes as a foundation. Should it decide to introduce a casino oasis in the desert, it would likely find the same results as Las Vegas.

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