Construction began on Montevideo’s Casino Carrasco Hotel in 1912. The completion of this massive beachfront hotel and casino combination was delayed during World War One, so the project did not see completion until 1921. Since then, the Carrasco has been a meeting place for Uruguay’s high society. It is now a historic site, and while it is still a very attractive destination, it is in need of an upgrade.
Sofitel Luxury Hotels, which owns and operates resort hotels from Dubai to New York, has recently acquired the Casino Carrasco Hotel, and is planning to pour an incredible amount of money into the establishment. The makeover will be complete in 2011, and the newly-renovated center will include a 450-seat conference centre, spas and swimming pools, a five-star restaurant serving French cuisine, and of course a high-class casino.
While the entire property will be upgraded, the emphasis will be on creating a luxury casino. Uruguayan gambling laws allow for casino gambling, but the government is not very free about handing out licenses, so rather than expansion, existing casinos must focus on upgrading. Sofitel’s objective with the Carrasco Casino is to turn it into the best gambling establishment in the region. Uruguay’s stable economy and existing tourist bring in more and more foreigners every year, and Montevideo, just 30 minutes from Buenos Aires by plane, has the biggest potential for growth in this part of Latin America.
Uruguay’s stance on gambling is somewhat unusual. Most of the country’s casinos are part of high-end hotels, and cater almost exclusively to foreign tourists. Sports betting is not permitted, despite the popularity of football and other games. Locals looking to wager on matches or to enjoy casino-style games tend towards internet gambling in Uruguay, which involves using foreign online gambling sites since the country does not host any of its own. While the newly upgraded Casino Carrasco Hotel will also be aimed at foreign clientele, it will also generate quite a few new jobs for locals, making it a winning situation however one chooses to look at it.