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Banned Since '35, Casinos Hold Aces Again in Mexico

18 August 2004

MEXICO -- As reported by the Chicago Tribune: "In 1935, one of Mexico's national heroes, President Lazaro Cardenas, banned casinos across the country, putting a damper on the good times of Hollywood stars and mafia types who made Tijuana a playground of gambling and other vices during the Prohibition era.

"Seven decades later, in a new world full of casinos, the gambling houses could return to Tijuana under a proposal before Mexico's Congress to again legalize them across the country.

"The initiative, presented to Congress in April, worries some Tijuanans who know the history of the heydays of the casinos and fear their effect on a frontier city already grappling with violent drug smuggling and trying desperately to clean up its image.

"'The world changed, and Mexico changed, or at least it's trying to adapt to those changes,' said Carlos Mora, a Tijuanan spearheading a pro-casino campaign for a group of chambers of commerce from across the country. "On many things, Mexico is behind."

"Nonetheless, casino backers acknowledge they may encounter opposition as the initiative comes up for a vote later this year. Tourism officials, who hope the casinos would complement Mexico's other tourist attractions, also have begun a promotional campaign across the country.

"...Some government officials fear the casinos would provide the region's notorious drug cartels another opportunity to launder their ill-gotten money.

"...After facing years of opposition, even within Mexico's business community, casino backers say they believe they have succeeded in building a consensus around the new initiative because it includes enough regulatory safeguards against abuses..."

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