In August 2010 Thunderbird Resorts Inc announced that it had completed the sale of its 63.63% stake in six Panama casinos to affiliates of the Spanish gaming group Codere for approximately US$38 million. The company said the sale was due to its inability to build its balance sheet or obtain long term financing for its Panama operations, under their long term property lease arrangements. Thunderbird had been operating successfully in Panama for 11 years.
Codere now controls the six Fiesta Casinos as well as the five Crown Casinos it already operated. There are five further casinos in Panama, with two more due to open soon. Another Spanish company, Cirsa, operates the Majestic Casino in Panama City as well as seventeen electronic gaming halls around the country. Seven hotels under construction will have the right to apply for a casino licence, bringing the gaming market close to saturation point.
The gaming industry has been profitable for these companies and recently there have been moves by the government to increase its share of the profits. In 2012 tax payable by casinos on gross revenue will rise to 15% from 12.5%. Slot machine businesses will see a bigger rise, with tax at 19% from the present 15%. According to the Association of Gaming Administrators, the industry already contributes over US$200 million a year to the national economy and employs some 800 people directly and another 3,000 indirectly. (E-01.05.11)
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