Casinos Accuse Mexican Government of Shakedown

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View of a Mexican national flag. (Photo by ALFREDO ESTRELLA / AFP)

It’s not often you hear about a private business being extorted by a government agency but in Mexico, anything is possible.

Pay to Play

Several casinos in Mexico have come forward and publicly accused the General Directorate of Games and Sweepstakes (DGJS is the Spanish acronym) of extorting them in exchange for licenses and the ability to continue “operating without pressure”. The accusations include public officials operating outside the domain of the DGJS trumping up charges leading to fines and threatening to shut down businesses for up to three years.

Reportedly, casino owners must pay 20 million pesos, the equivalent of $1 million U.S., to operate and another 300,000 pesos (approx. $15,000) monthly to maintain the protection and security of their respective establishments. It’s a blatant money grab by rogue government officials who may be freelancing under the guise of the DGJS, or the scam could go to the very top of the agency, chaired by Manuel Marcué Díaz.

Some of the more prominent targets of the extortion plot are Hipódromo de Las Américas, Apuestas Internacionales, Divertimex, Ganador Azteca, El Palacio de los Números, and Pur Umazal Tov. There are reports that several online casinos have been similarly forced to pay up or shut down.

Interestingly enough, Big Bola, an online casino based in Mexico, reopened last week after being shut down by the DGJS. But why it was permitted to reopen is still unclear but theories range from the operators conceding to the extortion demands to word getting out that this story would be released and the DGJS is simply trying to cover its tracks.

Financial analyst Darío Celis wrote an article in late March exposing the operation and illustrating the helplessness of the casino owners who were being hijacked by their own government. In his column, he asked the question, “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?”

Casino Industry Recovering

The allegations are bad enough but the timing could not be worse as thousands of jobs were lost during the global pandemic that crippled the global economy and shuttered many casinos including some in Mexico.

However, now that the social distancing and mask mandates have been relaxed, tourism is making a big comeback and the casino industry relies on tourists to a large degree. And now that the corruption has been exposed, the hope is that the casino owners will no longer feel compelled to pay the extortionists and those government officials will ultimately be brought to justice.

But government corruption in Mexico is a longstanding tradition and many believe that once the General Directorate of Games and Sweepstakes has been investigated and purged of the nefarious individuals who are responsible for the casino shakedown conspiracy, there will be others to fill the void.

But others more cynical take it one step further and believe nothing will change, no charges will be brought, and the extortion scheme will continue unabated.

Bookmakers Review will continue to monitor this story and update our readers as events unfold.