Because of the coronavirus, no one sees Barcelona star Lionel Messi play soccer, nor do they bet if he will score five goals or if he will be sent off before halftime or if he will miss a penalty. There are also no gamblers pulling the lever of the slot machines or throwing chips on the tables of the casinos with the intention of taking the jackpot.
The only thing visible in the entertainment and gambling industry in Mexico are its strategies to get out of the worst crisis, the plan to attract players, who left the rooms for fear of the virus and a sanitary order, as well as a proposal for the government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador to defer the payment of taxes.
Not even the appearance of influenza AH1N1 in 2009 managed to empty the gaming rooms, as the virus appeared in late 2019 in Wuhan, China. Today casinos are turned off by the health contingency and are struggling to get ahead.
That is why “it would be interesting that I will bet in favor of the coronavirus disappearing very soon, but that is unimaginable,” says Miguel Ángel Ochoa Sánchez, president of the Association of Permissionaries, Operators and Suppliers of the Entertainment and Gambling Industry in Mexico (AIEJA).
At the moment “they have already been considered (as new bets) when will the coronavirus end? Or when will the vaccine be invented? Or how many deaths will be reported (from this new virus)? “
Another of the ideas considered by casino owners to attract their customers again are bets of “What will be the price of oil in 30 days? Or the price of the dollar against the Mexican peso? ”says Ochoa Sánchez, doctor in Constitutional Law from UNAM.
The representative of the 31 licensees says that ingenuity and creativity will be used to get the industry out of the crisis, which will stop entering about 1.6 billion pesos due to its closure to avoid a massive contagion of Covid-19.
Large online gaming operators in Mexico such as Caliente, Codere, Play City and Big Bola will concentrate their efforts to find betting alternatives.
One of the most widely used strategies in the world is government gambling, but in Mexico they cannot be carried out due to possible contamination on corruption issues.
“You can bet on a weak candidate and give him money so he can win another and make you win the bet. This has not happened and I believe that in Mexico, which is a country that still uses a certain margin of corruption, it is a high risk. “
Other mechanisms have to be found, such as betting on the coronavirus, oil and the exchange rate, something that would be proper to the operators, says the representative of the casinos in Mexico.
THE HOUSE LOSES
Covid-19 has strongly affected the entertainment and gambling industry, because it closed in mid-March due to a health ruling in Nuevo León, Sonora and Jalisco.
With the imposition of the National Sana Distancia Day, by a decree of March 23, 2020 by the Ministry of Health, other game rooms no longer offered their services, and a couple of days later the entire industry was emptied and no longer had clients on site.
The coronavirus grabbed the destitute licensees, because the business works if people attend to play, have fun and spend: “Suddenly they close that source of income, they tell you to pay taxes and pay wages 100 percent”, Miguel Ángel Ochoa affirms.
Members of the Association of Permit Holders, Operators and Suppliers of the Entertainment and Gambling Industry generate annual revenues of 10 billion pesos, of which more than three billion pesos are destined for the payment of taxes.
“By completely stopping operations in April, May and the middle of March we are talking about between 1.2 billion pesos or 1.6 billion pesos, which are no longer being received,” he says.
“We already know that it stopped all April, apparently it will stop all May and we do not know when the return of the casinos will be and it is an issue that is not foreseen by the health authorities in the country,” he predicts. Some partners do not have the financial capacity to continue a closure beyond May 31.
The sports industry, which joined the Healthy Distance Day to prevent a spread of the coronavirus, practically left the bet in casinos dead, the businessman recalls.
Ochoa Sánchez mentions that there is an online gambling bet, which is made between individuals through the internet, but it is stopped due to the lack of soccer games, the main attraction of bettors.
The eLiga MX, a virtual league of Mexican soccer, is not as attractive or as well known or understood by gamblers, but it does give a bit of life to the economy of online operators.
The rest of the companies do not have a saved cash flow or a bag of money, because the Covid-19 was not expected and the disease with that magnitude was not expected to be experienced in Mexico, says Miguel Ángel Ochoa Sánchez.
“There are casinos that will have some fund to pay wages at 100 percent or a more or less reasonable measure,” says the president of the AIEJA.
The payment of taxes is impossible to make, because you are left without income and without bets: “If you pay taxes, you do not pay wages or other expenses, such as the receipt of electricity, water, gas, telephone and rent of the property,” he emphasizes.
“The idea is not to ask the government (of Andrés Manuel López Obrador) to exempt (or forgive) our taxes, but to defer them to us,” says Ochoa Sánchez.
As the casinos remain empty, they are not causing a 10 percent tax paid to the Tax Administration Service (SAT), nor 10 percent of the tax on games and draws to the states.
“The states reacted at the beginning quite well by supporting us with some deferrals or some extensions, but we are requesting the cancellation of 2 percent of payroll and not to collect taxes on games and draws,” he says.
The president AIEJA says that they also require several measures of a labor nature, which will avoid the dismissal of the employees of the casinos in Mexico.
Jaime Rodríguez Calderón, Governor of Nuevo León, exempted the payment of the Payroll Tax from April to June 2020 to hotels, restaurants, casinos, cinemas, bars and social centers.
Miguel Barbosa, Governor of Puebla, ordered that the Taxes on Lodging and Playing Games with Gambling and Draws should not be collected from April to December.
The rest of the state authorities have not reported any fiscal support for the permit holders, who generate more than 38 thousand direct job sources and 140 thousand permanent permanent sources.
As if that were not enough, casinos must comply with a series of sanitary measures determined by the Ministry of Health to operate free of Covid-19.
The AIEJA explains that the opening of the rooms will take place gradually, as the federal government has proposed, which has already given the go-ahead to open the economy in 324 municipalities free of Covid-19, but the opening of the rooms Gaming does not mean the return of 100 percent of customers, but rather that they will return little by little out of fear of the coronavirus, points out businessman Miguel Ángel Ochoa.