The Governor of Puerto Rico, Wanda Vázquez Garced, is seeking to overhaul the Caribbean island’s gambling laws in an attempt to revive its economy and tourism following the damages incurred by back-to-back hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017.

Last week, Vázquez personally recommended the appointments of two advisors, Professor José Balasquide-Córdova and Cristóbal Méndez, who are now set to lead the development of the Puerto Rico Games Commission.

Furthermore, the governor also wrote to the Senate, where she demanded that gambling responsibilities are to be overseen by Puerto Rico’s Equestrian Sports Society and the Tourism Board be transferred to a new Games Commission led by both Córdova and Méndez.

Vázquez commented: “The Puerto Rico Games Commission has the responsibility of establishing regulations for these economic activities. I am pleased to submit before the Senate of Puerto Rico to these two professionals, whose trajectory and knowledge will be of great value to develop said regulation and make this market viable on the island.”

To date, the government has loosely regulated all forms of land-based gambling (including cockfighting) under the remit of two regulatory bodies.

Nevertheless, governed as a US ‘unincorporated territory’, Puerto Rico’s government has been required to adhere to the US federal mandates of UIGEA and the 1961 Wire Act which restrict sports betting and online wagering.

In 2019, Puerto Rico’s Senate formally approved Bill PC2038, laying the foundations for sports wagering to be conducted within licensed premises. However, the legislation’s progress was halted following the high-profile homophobic text leak of its sponsor and former Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló.

Having taken office in August 2019, Vázquez now faces the daunting task of revitalizing Puerto Rico’s economy, as the region’s debt has inflated to $74bn following the damages faced by both hurricanes. Unlike mainland US states, the Puerto Rican government holds no access to Chapter 9 on US Banking Codes, hence it cannot file for bankruptcy relief.