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Is Gaming In Cuba About To Make A Comeback?


Beach in Cuba

Before the revolution, Cuba was a gaming hot spot, now that relations with the U.S. and the island nation are warming up could Las Vegas-style gambling return to the country?


During the 1920s and '30s, Americans flocked to Cuba in droves to escape prohibition, and to gamble.

That changed after Fidel Castro took power in 1959 and outlawed gaming. And so, American-backed casinos that once called Havana home were closed.

But now that the U.S. and Cuba are beginning to normalize relations, does the gaming industry see Cuba as its next big opportunity?

Not necessarily, according to David Schwartz, the director of UNLV's Center for Gaming Research.

"I'm not seeing any real need for [the industry] to do that," Schwartz told KNPR's State of Nevada. "The population there is so desperately poor. This isn't like China where you've got 1.2 billion people and a rising middle class and they don't have anywhere else to gamble. This is a part of the world where there is already quite a few places to gamble in the Caribbean, and the domestic population can't really afford to play at Wynn or Las Vegas Sands."

I. Nelson Rose, a gaming columnist, thinks that Cuba will be home to casinos within the decade, though.

"Since legal gambling is exploding not only throughout the United States, but all throughout Latin America, as soon as the Castro brothers are gone, we're going to find legal gambling coming back to Cuba."

Support comes from

Rose said Spanish companies like Codere may be the ones interested in opening up casinos in Cuba given their ties to the Latin American market.

Copyright 2015 KNPR-FM. To see more, visit

I. Nelson Rose, gaming columnist and researcher; David Schwartz, director, UNLV Center for Gaming Research

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