A power struggle may be brewing in Puerto Rico’s gaming industry. Calls for the head of the Puerto Rico Gaming Commission are getting louder as legislators add their voices.
The struggle between the Puerto Rico Gaming Commission (PRGC), unions and business owners continues to become more voracious. The commission is attempting to exert its authority over the gaming space, but its methods and legal grounding are being questioned.
As the conflict continues, at least one lawmaker believes it’s time for change. Representative Jose Rivera Madera has asked Governor Pedro Pierluisi to remove the executive director of the PRGC, Orlando Rivera Carrión.
Rivera Madera’s call follows a similar effort launched last week by the Union of Road Machine Operators (UNOMAR, for its Spanish acronym). He alleges that the PRGC boss has been accepting illegal payments and favors from businesses that fall under the jurisdiction of the commission. In addition, Rivera Carrión allegedly accepts payoffs from companies under evaluation by the PRGC.
Rivera Carrión, asserts the representative, made two trips to Barcelona, Spain. These were at the expense of companies with which the government is negotiating commercial deals. Rivera Madera explains that the companies are trying to introduce slot technology and other gaming equipment to Puerto Rico.
During the trips, Rivera Carrión and the business representatives discussed a number of issues, according to local media outlet Metro. Among them were changes to the law that would benefit particular groups.
Rivera Madera previously filed a complaint against Rivera Carrión with the Office of Government Ethics (OEG, for its Spanish acronym). In February, after learning about alleged “unacceptable relationships and compromising conversations” involving the PRGC boss, he tried to force changes within the organization.
Rivera Carrión Already Under Investigation
Last week, the Union of Operators of Machinery on the Road (UNOMAR) requested his dismissal. This came after it learned of a federal investigation that focuses on Rivera Carrión for irregularities, The investigation focuses on the PRGC’s move to limit the presence of electronic gaming machines that are prevalent in small, independent businesses and local chains.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is launching an investigation into Rivera Carrión. It has already asked the House of Representatives for a copy of the file on the alleged irregularities, according to El Nuevo Día.
In this document, it was confirmed that there are two main allegations of conflicts of interest. One of them focuses on Rivera Carrión’s participation in a conversation with individuals from the gaming ecosystem.
The other puts the boss under the microscope for the reimbursement of trips that the official made outside the country. He allegedly took the trips to evaluate proposals from companies interested in entering Puerto Rico’s gaming marketing. In addition to the trips to Spain, Rivera Carrión and a group of employees traveled twice to the US. One trip was to Chicago, IL, and the other to Las Vegas, NV.
A series of official documents specify that the purpose of the trips was to “audit a new license application for our jurisdiction.” It adds that the costs would be reimbursed “by regulated companies, as established by the regulations of the Gambling Bureau.”
In any case, the Secretary of Economic Development and Commerce (DDEC, for its Spanish acronym), Manuel Cidre, isn’t ready to intervene. The DDEC oversees the PRGC’s activity, but won’t take action on Rivera Carrión until the OEG completes its own investigation.
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