Suriname, the smallest gambling destination in South America

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

-Oana Mihalache

Globalization is not always praised by those who proclaim the importance of economic equity, but it was surely beneficial for industries like gambling, as it allowed access to markets that became new outlets for players around the world, which is possible due to border permeability and free circulation. An example for the latter case is Suriname, the smallest country of the South-American continent. Ex Dutch colony, the country gained its independence in 1975. Even though it’s a small state, Suriname is an amazing destination given that the indigenous population struggled to maintain cultural patterns unaltered by colonialists, but also due to the ethnic, linguistic and religious diversity.

The diversity is not of little importance when it comes to gambling. In the capital city of the country there are four casinos, but illegal activities are also present. Poker is highly popular among players in the country, but also among tourists visiting the country, as poker tour ar organized regularly.

Gambling is legal and the industry is well regulated in Suriname, even though illegal activities have not been totally dismantled. The government starting to issue operating licenses for casinos in 1996, and in a few years there were already nine casinos in the country. Not all of them survived, as now there are four major gambling destinations in the country, because shortly after the industry started to expand, the government launched an offensive against corruption and money landuering activities in the industry, initiated in 2004. Apart from casinos, players also have access to lotteries and sports betting halls, which are run by Suribet, a subsidiary of Superbet, a company that also operates in countries like Uganda, Guyana and Trinidad & Tobago.

Casinos were mainly built in the capital and the largest city of the country – Paramaribo (where around half the population lives) and the most renowned casino there was The Palace Casino, which had 161 slot machines, 10 table games, and among the games available were Baccarat, Blackjack, Caribbean Stud Poker, and Roulette. This casino was closed in 2005, after the tough governmental regulations were issued in order to have a “cleaner” regulation of the industry. The natural development of gambling was going ahead the economy and players’ wellbeing, so a king of “governmental Darwinism” appeared – only casinos that passed the legality test continued to operate.

Even if almost all casinos were built with foreign capital, they are still now a source of income for the population, with a total of 2.000 employees working in them. Regarding the population’s access inside the casinos, it now became a fact, but at a certain moment their access was conditioned by bringing a tourist in – even though the proposal did not become in fact law.

Apart from games, those who choose this small country as a gambling destination can also spoil themselves with fine drinks, night clubs, they have access to bars and free parking. The biggest casino in the country is Princess Hotel & Casino, which has 15 table games, 2 poker tables and 320 slot and video poker machines. This is only one of the casino attractions, another one being The Torarica Hotel Casino and the other casinos in the country are Hotel Ambassador & Casino and The Golden Truly Hotel & Casino.

As a small country, with only 560.000 inhabitants, Suriname has an economy that surpasses the medium incomes in the region, with a GDP per capita of $15.000 per year. As the country prospered, inhabitants developed a growing propensity for gaming. There is one game that is particularly popular in the country: poker, but the most wide-spread form is the one available in casinos, Carribean Stud Poker, even if many players prefer to play among themselves and not against the house, which is why they choose Texas Holdem or Omaha, which allow this playing formula. Poker can also be played in illegal spaces, which are apparently ignored by the government, tacitly allowing for their illicit activities to run.

Even if it’s an extremely small country, Suriname is an example of endurance in front of illegal practices and economic tenacity. If at the beginning of the 2000, the casinos were mainly considered a form of escapism for the population whose medium income was $150, now the industry developed according to the demand existing on the market and it became a destination both for them and for tourists – casinos were reduced in number, but altogether illegal activities that took place inside or near them have been reduced, such as drug dealers transactions. Well, this was not an easy road to take, and Casino Inside recommends this destination to those who ae curious to see a former Dutch colony in all its cultural and ethnic diversity and how it adapted to globalization, while keeping its indigenous specificities.

Author: Editor

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