Casino in Argentina Still Recovering From Fire Now Dealing With Protests

It was only a couple of weeks ago that the iconic Casino Central in Mar del Plata, Argentina, suffered fire damage after an annual celebration went sideways. Just as the heat from the incident was dying down, a new fire struck in the form of a protest by unionized employees against gaming regulators and the casino.

Casino Central in Mar del Plata, Argentina at dusk
Casino Central in Mar del Plata, Argentina at dusk. Unionized workers held a strike there this weekend to protest what it says is illegal anti-union activity. (Image: El Diario 24)

The Union of Workers of Casinos, Lottery, Agencies and Hippodromes (SITACLAH, for its Spanish acronym) began a protest in front of the casino last Friday. It was the result of a feud that has been building for over three years, based on a complaint of corruption filed against the Buenos Aires authorities.

Specifically, the complaint and the protest it produced target the Provincial Institute of Lotteries and Casinos (IPJyC, for its Spanish acronym). SITACLAH Secretary General Cristian Echeverría told local media program El Retrato that the protest was necessary to bring attention to irregularities in the gaming sector.

Hitting Where It Hurts Most

The protest blocked vehicular traffic on the street in front of the casino and foot traffic going into the venue. It reportedly caused a loss of approximately ARS100 million (US$473,000) per day to the coffers of the gambling hall.

The IPJyC and Casino Central may not be holding up their responsibilities as corporate citizens, according to the union. There are reports of embezzlement and bribery as part of what the union describes as a “$5-million drain.”

SITACLAH asserts that there are 250 people who receive state-provided salaries but who do not work in government positions. It added that the casino is paying all of those salaries and that the union knows “who is who.”

That relationship has led to favoritism and nepotism within the gaming and political ranks. Some casino employees are possibly receiving promotions based on their political affiliation and not their ability to perform the job, and Echeverría wants the practice to stop.

There are also accusations against the casino for being in bed with certain unions that work harder for the casino industry than casino employees. SITACLAH alleges that Casino Central is working with the Association of National Casino Employees and the Association of Employees of Administration, Maestranza and Casino Services (AECN and AMS, respectively, for their Spanish acronyms) to keep it out of the picture.

By Saturday afternoon, the strike was over without incident.

A Seat At The Table

SITACLAH has been trying for years to be recognized as a parallel union to AECN and AMS, but has had difficulty gaining ground. It has made limited progress over the past three years or so, although still believes it’s being suppressed.

The union previously filed a legal complaint against several people with ties to the IPJyC and the gaming industry. It accuses them of illicit association, attempted homicide, fraudulent administration, abuse of authority, violation of the duties of officials and embezzlement of public funds.

The complaint also includes the allegation of embezzlement of state funds to benefit the AECN and AMS. However, it hasn’t moved forward in years, and there have been no formal charges against anyone named in the document.

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