Real Money Online Gambling in Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico might only be a territory of the United States, but it’s not because it does not have enough people, as Puerto Rico is bigger than 17 states. It isn’t because it is not in the main part of the country, as both Alaska and Hawaii are a lot further away.
The people there just don’t want to become a state though, and the majority are actually are in favor of their independence. This is far from your typical state though and is very culturally different from other states. This extends to their gambling as well, where for example cockfighting is legal and has been popular throughout Puerto Rico’s history.
Puerto Rico is a world apart from the rest of the country, and is much more Caribbean in their approach to gambling as well. Join us on a tour of this island’s gambling scene.
History of Gambling in Puerto Rico
Long before the casinos were built in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico, long before it was even part of the United States, cockfighting ruled their gambling scene. Puerto Rico was colonized by the Spanish all the way back in 1493, who settled the island with their people along with slaves brought over from Africa to stand along the native people of the island.
The indigenous people are now virtually gone, and even though the territory was seized by the U.S. during the Spanish American War back in 1898, this remains mostly influenced by the Spanish culture it developed during the 400 years it was the property of Spain.
One of the first things that the island’s new rulers did was to outlaw cockfighting, where weaponized roosters fight to the death and people bet on which one they think will survive. It’s not that this law got rid of the practice, but it did drive it underground. In an attempt to appease the people and perhaps direct them toward a more gentrified way to bet on animal contests, Puerto Rico legalized horse race betting in 1910.
It’s not that they legalized it, as there was no law against betting on anything but cockfighting at the time, but the territory did start regulating and encouraging it since this time. Several horse race tracks have come and went over the years, with one popular one still standing today, the Hipodromo Camarero, a short drive from the island’s capital of San Juan.
Puerto Rico ended up caving into political pressure from the people in 1933 when they changed their mind about cockfighting and made it legal again. This remains the case to this day, even though it is under fierce attack by the federal government, and this was the sole law banning gambling in any form in the over 500 history of the territory.
People have been playing the lottery in Puerto Rico far before the territory got its official lottery in 1934, and well before this became a popular practice on the mainland. Puerto Rico’s lottery was the first in the country.
In 1948, the Random Games Law was passed, which gave official approval to charitable gambling as well as casinos. For a time, only Nevada and Puerto Rico had legal casinos among the territories in the country.
It is not even that Puerto Rico sought to regulate this gambling, and to this day, Puerto Rico still does not have an overriding gambling commission and instead relies on some loosely connected government bodies such as their racing commission which do not add up to what we would really call organized gambling regulation.
As they get ready to permit sports betting, one of the issues that have come up is that the territory probably should have a gambling commission to manage it, and both the implementation of regulated online gambling and their having a body to regulate it effectively for the first time are both in the works.
You don’t get any more open than Puerto Rico when it comes to real money gambling, in the United States or anywhere. Even Nevada tightly regulates it, where Puerto Rico doesn’t even interfere with it much at all, thus far anyway. They also don’t have legal cockfighting in Nevada.
Puerto Rico Gambling Laws
Puerto Rico does not have its own laws, as the territory is administered by the federal government where they have crafted out laws mostly based upon those of California’s, as well as the territory being subject to federal laws.
For whatever reason, and probably owing to how strongly in favor Puerto Ricans are toward real money gambling, no one bothered writing in any anti-gambling laws at all into laws that apply to the territory. If you are in favor of gambling, this is as good as it gets, with no prohibitions whatsoever.
It can be quite difficult at times to ascertain what forms of gambling may or may not be permitted by state law, but Puerto Rico makes this task as easy as it can be, with no forms of gambling disallowed. If you aren’t going to make cockfighting illegal, it’s hard to imagine your opposing another form of it.
It is also not against the law to gamble online in Puerto Rico, and the new push to allow Puerto Rico to regulate sports betting seeks to take advantage of this market by taxing it. Getting a bill to regulate this needs to be approved by Congress though, but the votes are in and the bill has passed. Both land-based and online sports betting will be rolled out soon, in addition to seeking to regulate its rollout at the territory’s land-based casinos as well.
One of the real obstacles in recent years has been the existence of the federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, which prohibited most states, including Puerto Rico, from regulating sports betting. Once that got struck down, the gates opened up wide and Puerto Rico was at the front of the line wanting this.
Even without this new gambling-enabling law, Puerto Rico was already very open to gambling, and it was just a matter of time before they got into regulating online gambling and reaping the benefits. The appeal of the tax dollars from this has Puerto Rico really chomping at the bit now.
Land-Based Gambling in Puerto Rico
For an island this small, Puerto Rico sure punches way above its weight in terms of casinos per 100,000 population. There are 21 on an island of about 3 million people, which is not even close to Nevada but still is pretty impressive.
Puerto Rico was first to the post in the United States as far as creating a government run lottery, and while some states had lotteries in place well before the United States was born, they disappeared long ago and Puerto Rico’s record is contiguous.
Puerto Rico’s Lottery is more modest than your typical lottery. They offer pick 2, pick 3, and pick 4 games, in addition to occasional seasonal draws. They offer their players access to one of the two big national jackpot games, Powerball, but still do not offer the other, Mega Millions, and there are no plans to do so currently. The Puerto Rico Lottery did add scratch tickets in 2010 to bring it more up to date.
Puerto Rico has had horse race betting continually since all the way back in 1910, as the Americans sought to replace the traditional gambling game of cockfighting that was so popular in the territory at the time.
There is still one large horse racing track in operation in Puerto Rico, the Hipodromo Camarero. This isn’t a racino, it’s just a horse racing track, and in Puerto Rico, if you want to bet on horses you go bet on horses, and if you wish to gamble at a casino, you gamble at a casino.
They do offer a jackpot game though which once paid out a pot of $12 million, which adds interest to the betting. They also have a network of 12 off-track betting locations to make it easier for people to bet on their horse races.
In spite of trying to move Puerto Ricans away from cockfighting and its 400 year history on the island, cockfighting remains popular in the territory. It turned out that President Trump signed a law that would outlaw cockfighting there, so Puerto Rico struck back with a new law affirming its legality once again in 2019.
Cockfighting is rolled out informally, but it is big enough of an industry to employ 20,000 people. The battle still wages on between the territory who want to keep it and those in Washington who want to see it finally gone, so it’s hard to say now long this will be continued to be operated legally, but it will probably only be driven underground once again.
The heart of Puerto Rico’s gambling world is its 21 casinos scattered throughout the island. These are not big casinos by any means, and would all be considered small in places that do have good sized casinos, but their smaller size lets them be more spread out and be more accessible to the population.
There are some pretty nice hotel casinos in Puerto Rico, which cater mostly to tourists. You have to bring the tourists in though and you do that with nice resorts. Puerto Rico has plenty of nice ones.
The Caguas Real Hotel and Casino, part of the Four Points Sheraton, has 570 slots and 10 table games spread over two floors, as well as poker, a hotel, restaurants, a spa, venues, and attractions. The Stellaris Casino at the San Juan Marriott offers 462 slots, 26 table games, a hotel, restaurants, a spa, venues, and attractions.
The Casino del Mar at La Concha Resort has 420 slots and 20 table games, poker, a hotel, restaurants, shops, venues, and attractions. The Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel and Casino features 400 slots, 19 table games, poker, a hotel, restaurants, a spa, shops, and venues. The Mayaguez Resort and Casino lays out 390 slots, 11 tables games, and live poker along with a hotel, restaurants, and attractions,
The El Tropical Casino at Holiday Inn Mayaguez has 370 slots, 9 table games, poker, a hotel, restaurants, shops, and venues. The El Tropical Casino Ponce Holiday Inn features 346 slots, 10 table games, a hotel, restaurants, shops, and venues. The Hilton Ponce Golf and Casino Resort rolls out 340 slots, 9 table games, poker, a hotel, restaurants, golf, a spa, venues, and attractions.
The Ritz Carleton San Juan Hotel and Casino boasts 329 slots, 10 table games, poker, a hotel, restaurants, a spa, shops, and attractions. The Oasis Casino at Embassy Suites San Juan has 320 slots, 8 table games, a hotel, restaurants, a spa, shops, and attractions. The El Tropical Casino Bayamon Hyatt Place features 308 slots, 10 table games, poker, a hotel, and restaurants.
There are 10 more smaller casinos in Puerto Rico that add to this list, and from looking at the operators involved, some of the biggest names in hotel resorts, these are not just casinos, these are world class places to go on a Caribbean vacation with all the amenities that you would expect at such a place, including being able to gamble.
With sports betting just around the corner, once Puerto Rico finishing hammering out the details on this, casino players will soon be able to bet on their favorite professional sporting events both at these land-based venues and online.
Puerto Rico Online Casinos & Slots Gambling
The only online gambling that has been going on in Puerto Rico for all these years has been going on without the authorization of the territory, but that’s also the case for the great majority of states in the country as well.
Puerto Rico, being as hip toward gambling as they happen to be, wasn’t about to wait around to jump in and license sports betting once the law holding most states back from doing this was struck down by the Supreme Court of the United States. They ruled that these things are outside federal jurisdiction, leaving it up to states to decide, and this also left it up to Puerto Rico to choose whether they want sports betting or not.
Not surprisingly, Puerto Rico chose to move forward, and while they needed the permission of Congress to do it, they received it and are now proceeding to set this up. One of the things that is needed to do it is a proper regulatory framework, a territory-wide gaming commission to oversee all gambling including this new online gambling they are planning, but there is no real resistance to this and we’ll see this all happen soon.
Puerto Rico is as pro gambling as they come actually, and it may just be a matter of time before they expand their online gaming empire to also include the other two major forms of real money online gambling, poker and casino. The Caribbean is a hotbed of offshore gambling, and instead of seeing their residents play at real money online gambling sites run from other islands, the territory should prefer that they play on Puerto Rican licensed sites instead of ones run out of places like Antigua, where they don’t get any tax revenue or have any oversight.
While domestic regulation does tend to put the tax that operators pay up quite a bit, which can put their operating costs up and see these shortfalls passed on to their players in some way, Puerto Rico plans to only charge 7%. These things do matter, and Puerto Ricans can rest assured that the sports betting they end up getting will be pretty competitive with the options that people in the territory currently enjoy.
There’s also the advantage of being able to use payment processors that have exited the U.S. gambling market, including credit cards and popular internet wallets. It’s not that this serves as any limitation currently, but the payment methods that Americans use these days, such as Bitcoin, aren’t quite as convenient as more popular options.
That’s the difference between playing on a real money online gambling site that is regulated in Puerto Rico or elsewhere, as playing elsewhere does require you to work with more limited deposit and withdrawal options. The people who do want to gamble online do it anyway and do not see this as any real obstacle, and it isn’t.
Other than that, it actually doesn’t matter much if you are a Puerto Rican online gambler if you play at a Puerto Rican site or an Antiguan one, or one regulated elsewhere in the world, although playing at offshore sites do require that we be a little more diligent. You can count on Puerto Rico only selecting good sites or better for you, while elsewhere, this can be more of an unknown as offshore regulators do differ in quality.
It is not against the law to gamble at anything in Puerto Rico, which is pretty clear giving that gambling is completely absent from the criminal law that applies to this territory. The only thing missing is knowing where the best places to play your favorite real money online gambling games that accept players from Puerto Rico, which we are happy to provide you with our recommendations that we have for you.
Future of Gambling in Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico’s gambling scene is of a different sort than in virtually all states, which both tend to cater to locals and generally have some sort of issue with gambling that plays out in their willingness to allow certain types or even gambling at all. Puerto Rico is more like Las Vegas, with casinos laid out resort style, with Puerto Rico having the advantage of being a natural vacation destination rather than an artificial one built in the desert.
Puerto Rico does not have anywhere near the amount of gambling to qualify as a gambling destination, although building up the market for gambling vacations could potentially change this. The tourism business in Puerto Rico is really picking up, more than tripling over the last 5 years, in spite of Hurricane Maria decimating the island.
They do have a long way to go to put up the really big numbers, and while the territory has worked its way up to 3.7 million visitors a year, this is dwarfed by the 50 million that Las Vegas gets. Puerto Rico’s casinos aren’t even close to the scale of the best of Las Vegas, but you get both the warm weather and the beach in Puerto Rico.
When you add in gambling, this can make the deal pretty tempting, and should this trend toward more tourism continue, this could bring the territory’s gambling market up as well. This will take time, especially the time it takes for the gambling infrastructure of Puerto Rico keeping up, with a natural delay built in, but we will likely see Puerto Rico’s land based gambling space continue to increase for some time.
Adding sports betting is definitely a big win for both Puerto Rico’s land based casinos and its real money online gambling market. Puerto Rico’s gambling is very much directed at tourists, and adding online gambling to the menu will definitely bring residents into the game a lot more.
There are over 3 million people in this territory, which could be better served than they are now. Online casino and poker to go along with online sports betting would really serve to complete the deal, although that isn’t on the table at the present time.
As Puerto Rico gets its first taste of regulating real money online gambling, this should serve to whet its appetite of the territory and see them open things up more. However, and the real obstacle here is getting Congress to approve this expansion.
This will require not only the view of this in Puerto Rico to change, which probably involves no more than being able to turn their attention to these other forms once they get finished rolling out online sports betting, it will also require the federal government to improve its view as well. This is the same government that declared trade war on Antigua during the early days of online gambling, and lost, and while things have sure improved since then, they still need to improve some more for Washington to give the nod to further expansion.
While we wait for this to all unfold, it is comforting to realize that this really won’t make all that much difference in the Puerto Rico online gambling scene, which remains fully open as these changes play out. The changes are about what Puerto Rico is doing, getting in on licensing online sites of their own, rather than leaving their people to be served by readily available competitors as they are now.
There are some great sites out there right now that are happy to take players from Puerto Rico that are waiting for you right now to check them out.
Puerto Rico Online Slots & Casinos FAQs
- How long has Puerto Rico had gambling?
Gambling has been popular in Puerto Rico since the early days of Spanish settlement. Betting on cockfights is deeply entrenched in the territory’s history, and while the U.S. did outlaw it once they took possession of Puerto Rico after winning the territory in the Spanish American War, it didn’t stay against the law for very long and is still legal today, even though it still faces strong opposition from the U.S. government.
- What is it legal to gamble at in Puerto Rico?
Puerto Rico has not had any laws against gambling since 1933 when it made cockfighting legal again. Cockfighting is the only form of gambling that has ever been against the law here, and the territory does not even currently have any laws pertaining to gambling in its criminal code. Without any laws at all prohibiting gambling, Puerto Ricans can gamble at whatever they wish. There aren’t even laws against promoting gambling here.
- What can you gamble at in Puerto Rico?
Puerto Rico has the oldest lottery in the country, which has been in continuous operation since 1934. Puerto Ricans have been betting on cockfights for 400 years, and is still popular today. Puerto Rico also permits charitable and social gambling. They have a pari-mutuel horse racing track with off-track betting locations. There are also a total of 21 casinos, including many top notch resorts. Sports betting is on the way, both at casinos and online.
- Why doesn’t Puerto Rico’s horse racing track offer casino games?
It is not uncommon for pari-mutuel tracks to also offer some sort of casino gambling, often slots but sometimes offering table games as well, earning the name of racino. While some may think that a pari-mutuel track that doesn’t have casino gambling would need to be due to restraint, Puerto Rico simply follows the natural development of their gambling, where people bet on races at the track and visit casinos separately.
- How likely is it that legal cockfighting will go away soon in Puerto Rico?
Puerto Rico is in a real battle with the federal government over Washington’s desire to not have these things legal anywhere in the country. It was rendered illegal by a federal law recently, causing Puerto Rico to snap back and pass a bill to legalize it again. Puerto Rico just does not want to say no to this, and this has now become a battle of wills. We might see this practice become illegal again soon as the federal government asserts its upper hand more.
- Has Puerto Rico jumped on the sports betting bandwagon yet?
Although there were four states that were exempt from the federal law that recently got struck down that prevented states from regulating sports betting, Puerto Rico is under federal jurisdiction, and while the federal government was found to not have the right to regulate interstate gambling, they can definitely do this in territories under their jurisdiction. However, the whole bill was struck down and Puerto Rico jumped right on board.
- What are the prospects of gambling expanding even more in Puerto Rico?
The tourism industry in Puerto Rico has been growing in leaps and bounds over the last 5 years. Americans can travel there without even leaving the country, and more and more are coming over. Puerto Rico’s gambling is tourist based, and more tourists means more opportunity. Sports betting has now been added to the ticket, including online, but there isn’t anything currently in the works to add real money online poker or real money online casino games.
- What are the unique challenges that Puerto Rico faces in regulating its gambling?
While Puerto Rico has gone ahead and legalized land-based and online sports betting now, with this being expected to roll out soon, it is not just Puerto Rico that had to decide. All these changes have to be approved by Congress before it can become law in Puerto Rico. This is the main reason why it may take a little time at least before Puerto Rico adds real money online poker and real money online casino games to its list.
- What can Puerto Ricans gamble at online now?
Just because a real money online gambling site is licensed and regulated in Puerto Rico or on another Caribbean island doesn’t really make any difference as far as access goes. There are many good sites that are licensed and regulated at various locations throughout the world that accept Puerto Rican players. As long as you are happy to play, they are happy to have you play with them.
- How can Puerto Ricans be directed toward the best sites they can play at?
There is a lot that goes into comparing real money online gambling sites, and the experience needs to not just have you venture off by yourself and be taken in by shills that work for sites. By relying on the real experts such as ourselves, who are completely independent, you can put yourself in the best position to ensure that your online gambling experiences will be the best you can make them.