2014 has been a year full of great moments, especially in countries like Colombia where there is a lot of excitement about new gaming regulatory changes; and in Paraguay about new operations such as that proposed in Ciudad del Este. However, Christmas would come with a huge present from Santa for all the industry if Mexican legislators finally manage to approve changes to the Federal Gaming Act, to include live games operations such as Roulette, Blackjack, Baccarat, poker and all those real games that truly give a casino its raison d’etre. Just a few more words to wish everyone great year-end celebrations and a truly wonderful 2015! Cheers, Ricki. PARAGUAY – Hard Rock to open US$70m in Paraguay hotel casino The end of October saw the official presentation of Hard Rock International’s casino hotel project at Paraguay’s Ministry of Industry and Commerce. Plans showed an integrated resort with a 250-room hotel, shops, 2,000-seater Convention Hall, restaurants, plus a casino with 500 slot machines and 30 table games, amongst others offerings, to be built in Ciudad del Este close to the Brazil border. The event was hosted by Minister Gustavo Leite, and was attended by Ramón Giménez, Eddie Lynn for Hard Rock Casino and Hotel, Simon Falic, associated to Hard Rock Casino and Hotel and also Daniel Sawaich, and on behalf of the Minister of Tourism, Doris Penoni. Leite said that the initial investment will be close to US$70 million, and the project will have “700 direct jobs that will have a multiplier effect for the area and local economy, since it will inject dynamism. Jobs and the business structure will remain as part of economic growth, which is relevant. This was not an easy process; it took more than one year to get the license for Hard Rock to become the first facility in the region with this type of infrastructure.” The minister added that the proposed investment enables Paraguay to raise its profile in tourism, and in particular that of Ciudad del Este, adding: “Investments of this nature are an endorsement for our country. Many opportunities are to be opened with the support of this well-known brand and it will have this multiplier effect since other companies will do the same and this will benefit the region.” MEXICO – Serious work at Congress on new casino law The president of the Special Commission to amend the Federal Gaming and Lotteries Act, Aurora Aguilar Rodriguez, said at the end of October that the members of the Committee are determined to change the legislation “because we have a law of 1946 and for any activity, not just casinos, an almost 70 year old law doesn’t do the country any favours.” Working as part of the House of Representatives, the gaming Special Commission was set up at the beginning of 2013 to investigate the workings of the gaming permits issued by the federal government since 2004 and upon completion of that investigation to formulate reforms to the current gaming legislation that has been in force for nearly seventy years, with the objective of bringing such legislation up to date. The commission president said that the law will contain very clear rules to combat money laundering, with recommendations already formulated by the Treasury. She stated that a first consensus has been reached to the reform to the law, establishing that the minimum age to gamble at casinos will be 21 years. This agreement was agreed between the House of Representatives and the Secretaría de Gobernación (Segob), the gaming regulator in Mexico. The lawmaker also explained that the upcoming legal framework will encourage responsible gaming and set programmes for the prevention and treatment of problem gambling. Additionally, Aguilar Rodríguez said that new legislation will ensure transparency for the playing public and equal conditions for operators in the gaming industry through the creation of a Gaming Institute as an organization independent of Segob. At close of press, the work of Mexico’s Special Commission on Gambling was in its final stages. Aguilar Rodriguez was confident that the process will conclude during the course of 2014. Work was underway to finalize the draft bill aimed at reaching full consensus amongst the seven parliamentary groups represented in the Commission. The full proposal then will be delivered to the Gobernacion Committee in Congress for final analysis and approval. In Mexico, casino operators report that a new gaming law would represent investments of some US$300 billion a year through the installation of 50 casinos per year. To date, there are 31 permit holders in the country that have authorization from Segob to operate 340 gambling operations. However, a new law could open up the way for 700 new casinos across the country. PANAMA – Sun International launches its Ocean Sun Casino In the experienced hands of South African gaming group Sun International, Ocean Sun Casino has opened in Panama as the first high-end casino in the country, covering over 7,000 square metres in the Trump Ocean Club International Hotel & Tower. According to the company, investment in developing the project has been in excess of US$100 million. The launch of the Ocean Sun Casino was celebrated on Friday 24 and Saturday 25 October with a firework extravaganza unlike any seen before in Panama. Legendary merengue singer Sergio Vargas gave a special presentation. John Fraser, Sun International’s Commercial Manager for Latin America, commented: “We have decided to invest in Panama because the country offers its investors economic stability and opportunities for growth. There is an adequate regulatory system for long-term investment and as Panama is a hub for business it has good connections with many countries in the world.” The casino occupies the mezzanine in the Trump Ocean Club and has its own lobby and automobile access. Clients can enjoy playing the 600 slot machines and gamble at the 32 gaming tables offering Baccarat, Roulette, Black Jack and Poker. Up on the building’s 66th floor and with a fantastic panoramic view of the city is Panaviera, Ocean Sun Casino’s VIP gaming area. COLOMBIA – Slot Summit Colombia will be in Bogota The Slot Summit is coming to South America this December with its inaugural launch at the Hilton, Bogota, on December 10-12. Three-day conferences have been organized for all managers working in casinos or electronic casinos. The conferences are sponsored by leading manufacturers of slot machines and other slots equipment. Speakers at the conferences have all, without exception, earned respect in the industry and will be addressing topics such as: Technical Topics; Communication Protocols between Machines and Systems; Server-Based Gaming; Synergies between on-line and off-line Gaming; Marketing Topics; Casino Visitor Profiles; How to best use Mystery Prizes; Multi-Sensory Marketing, the impact of sounds, smells, colours; Casino Marketing At each Slot Summit, casino managers, slot managers and marketing staff are taken through the key elements of building a successful slot floor – from recognizing the types of players to choosing the right game variability to maximize revenue and encourage return visits. These unique events also allow effective business networking between delegates, speakers and manufacturers in a relaxed setting through networking receptions.