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Insight URUGUAY


MORE PROTESTS IN WAKE OF CASINO CLOSURES AS TOURIST NUMBERS FALL


Problems for Uruguay’s Mantra Resort Spa and Casino continue to mount with the threat of worker protest campaigns


Workers laid off from the Mantra Resort Spa and Casino located in Punta Del Este have announced their intention to intensify their protests and demonstrate outside manager’s homes. The news comes after The Head of the Uruguayan Gaming Board Javier Chá announced in January that the casino at the Mantra Resort Spa and Casino would close on February 28 and would not reopen until December 1. The casino had reported losses of USS$500,000 in 2013 and the gaming board made the decision to turn the casino into a seasonal casino only.


In response to the news, union members for the workers at the Nuevo Nogaró, which is also a joint enterprise between Vidaplan SA and the state, announced that they would go on strike once the casino in La Mantra closes its doors. This is despite Mr Chá’s assurances that no jobs would be lost. According to the head of the gaming board employment for those who were out of work in the summer months would be found at the nearby Casino Nuevo Nogaró.


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Both casinos operate under the mixed system. Under the mixed system private investors can set up a casino in a hotel but it is the state that manages and runs the casino for which it receives in return between 35 per cent and 45 per cent a percentage of casino profits.


The mixed system has since 1995 become increasingly popular in Uruguay especially as the wholly state run casinos have been hit by a number of corruption scandals over the last five years leading in some cases to jail terms.


Talking to local newspaper El País Mr Chá said: “We are currently in discussions with the company (Vidaplan SA) to adapt the operation of the casino, where the commercial reality tells us that it is feasible only in the summer season. In the rest of the year the casino has no chance of operating with a profit.”


In February it was announced that unions are also organising protests outside the Fasana and Solana hotels both of which have announced that job cuts will be made in May while workers from the casino Nogaró plan to stage a protest at the Punta del Este Carnival. At the same time union members are now camping outside the casino Nogaró doors to protest against the recent job losses.


According to a press release by Vidaplan SA, the seventy layoffs which went into effect this week, were necessary due to a decrease in Argentine tourists and were part of a larger restructuring of the business and were necessary in order to "to ensure the quality of service, the efficiency of the business units safeguard as many possible sources of work as possible.”


Uruguay is traditionally an Argentine summer holiday destination but due to currency restriction now in place more and more Argentines are spending their summer holidays at home. This is because the government has implemented a number of moves to stop the flow of dollars out of the central bank and bolster the value of the Argentine peso in the face of rising inflation which currently stands at around 30 per cent. In July 2012 the government banned people from buying dollars for the purpose of saving them and Argentines are only permitted $100 a day when travelling outside the country.


Since August 2012 Argentines must also pay a 15 per cent tax surcharge on all credit card transactions made abroad and this went up to 25 per cent in March 2013.


According to the latest statistics released by The Uruguayan Centre for Economic Research (CINVE) Argentine visitor numbers have fallen by as much as 9 per cent this summer season. Brazilian tourists have also fallen by 12.2 per cent due to the recent slowdown in the Brazilian economy.


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