Cuba : The New Macau?

¡Viva La Casino Revolucion!

Posted by Chuckmonster

Will Cuba become the new Macau?

With dictator Fidel Castro voluntarily resigning from long held dictatorship due to failing health, one can't help but wonder if a return to the glorious gambling days of Havana's hot night past is in our not-too-distant future.

As Las Vegas slowly sprouted upon the Paradise strip in the 1950's, Havana was already a fully developed gaming destination chocked to the brim with luxurious hotels, elegant nightclubs and fine dining run by the same cache of gangsters as Nevada. Until Castro excised the Syndicate - Meyer Lansky, Santo Trafficante, Joseph Silesi, Actor George Raft and many more - from Cuba on New Years Day 1959. The Tropicana, Sans Souci and Riviera set up Havana operations... even Wilbur Clark, frontman/dreamer behind the Desert Inn, had a namesake casino in Cuba.

Previously to Castro's rule, the Syndicate was invited to operate - legally - by the Batista government, who took a 25% cut of the action plus the requisite tributes and other fees.

Cuban Casinos of the 1950s, pre-Castro

San Souci
Wilbur Clark's
Casino Centro de la Colonia Espanol
Hotel Nacional
The Habana Hilton
The Capri
Artistica Gallistica
Hotel Plaza
Casino Circulo Militar
Club Union
Club Union
Casino Silvestre
Casino Espanol
Casino Del Rio
Casino Guillermo Badell
Casino Habana-Madrid
Casino Jesus Rey
Casino Montmartre
Casino Oriental Park
Casino St. John's
Casino Parisien

These syndicate operated casinos casinos had no betting limits, operated 24 hours a day and took in millions of dollars in lost bets a day. When Castro took over, he moved to close them initially in order to run the gangsters and corrupt politicians off the island. As a result, the tourists stopped coming as well, and Castro re-opened some of the properties but it was never the same.

With the Castro era on Cuba slowly drawing to a close, one is compelled to wonder if new government officials - much like government officials globally - will target casino tourism revenue as a method to springboard to a new Cuban economy.

There are over 100 casinos operating in the Caribbean currently, with companies large and small including Harrah's and Colony Capital (via Kerzner) running or planning new operations on one of the many islands. The presence of full scale Strip-style (Vegas or Cotai) on Cuba, however would become a lightning rod for Caribbean casino action and has the potential, with the right management and encouragement from the government, to become the next area for a casino building boom a la Macau.

It could be ten or twenty years off before we see any announcement for Harrah's Havana, or new outposts of Venetian, Wynn or MGM Mas Grande, but Cuba trippers are eons closer to experiencing hot times in Havana casinos than we were a week ago.

¡Viva La Casino Revolucion!

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Comments & Discussion

I'm curious Chuck, how long did it take you to secure after you had this relevation?

hahaha. i doubt that vt will be around by the time cuba opens its doors to gamblers.

I'm glad you re-posted this. It probably won't happen in my lifetime, but Havana may be on the way back.

I'm sure Baha Mar is not happy about any potential competition from Cuba.

I'll be curious to see how Atlantis (in the Bahamas) reacts.

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