Mexico’s gaming regulator, the General Directorate of Games and Sweepstakes, has become the center of attention for the wrong reasons. Several casinos have stepped forward to accuse it of extortion in exchange for licenses.
Mexico’s casino industry is being thrust into the limelight. Media outlet El Financiero reports that some casino owners are claiming acts of extortion against them by the General Directorate of Games and Sweepstakes (DGJS, for its Spanish acronym). They assert that the gaming regulator, directly or through interposed third parties, requests lavish sums of money in exchange for the “security” of their businesses.
The casino owners have stated that public officials supposedly authorized by the DGJS, chaired by Manuel Marcué Díaz, charge large amounts to let them operate. In some cases, the figure reaches into the seven-digit range.
Put Up or Shut Down
In exchange for “operating without pressure,” the casino owners say they must pay 20 million pesos (US$1 million). If they don’t pay up, they face fines or could have their businesses shut down for three years.
Those who pay face further problems. They must continue to make monthly payments of 300,000 pesos (US$15,171) to the extortionists. The extortion plan reportedly surfaced only within the past four to six weeks.
The extortion agents approach the main casino centers, such as Monterrey and Guadalupe, with arbitrary justifications and outside the consent of the DGJS itself. The list of facilities in the crosshairs includes Hipódromo de Las Américas, Apuestas Internacionales, Divertimex, Ganador Azteca, El Palacio de los Números and Pur Umazal Tov. Several online casinos have been targets, as well.
Financial analyst Darío Celis helped bring the issue to light last month. In a column he wrote on March 24, 2022, he asked, “Will President Andrés Manuel López Obrador be aware that the new director of Games and Sweepstakes of the Ministry of the Interior, Manuel Díaz, has been extorting companies that have had investments in this niche for many years?”
Around 30 active licenses are reportedly worried about repercussions. They’re not willing to give in to the extortion demands. As a result, they expect their businesses to be shut down at any time.
Last week, the Big Bola online casino returned to life after it closed temporarily. It was able to able to open partially after the DGJS forced it to close. However, it isn’t clear if the reopening was the result of the casino owner caving to the demand or if there was another reason.
Damage to the Economy
The consequences caused by the global COVID-19 crisis have already impacted the Mexican gaming industry greatly. It has reported drops in revenue of up to 20 billion pesos (US$1 billion) per year.
The reduction of capacities, which fell to 50% of their normal levels, and the appearance of extortion further affects the complex limitations of the sector. Still, despite severe regulations and the formal counting of income by tax authorities, the money-grabbing tactics continue.
They impact a sector that accounts for 45,000 direct jobs and another 130,000 indirect positions. However, unless there is action, those numbers will fall.
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