Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro has authorized the opening of an international casino at a luxury hotel in Caracas where bets must be placed in petros, the country’s national oil-backed digital currency.
Several cryptocurrencies and fiat currencies can be exchanged into petros to wager in the casino. The proceeds are expected to be used for healthcare and education.
Nationally Used Petros
The president of Venezuela announced Friday that he has authorized the opening of a casino at the Humboldt Hotel in Caracas where bets must be placed in petros (PTR). The hotel, located on the peak of El Avila hill, was reopened in 2018.
“I have authorized legal bets with petros,” he reportedly said during a joint radio and television broadcast. “For example, in the Hotel Humboldt, there will be an international casino and everyone who wants to bet will bet with petros, all those resources will enter the state for health and education.” Maduro elaborated “You can come to bet. There will be offers, special prices. You buy your petro tokens, you can buy them if you bring yuan, if you bring yen, dollars, euros or any other cryptocurrencies … buy your petros and make your licit bets allowed by the state as contemplated by national laws.”
Gamblers must acquire PTR to participate, Criptonoticias news outlet clarified, citing that the initiative aims to procure additional resources to boost Venezuela’s recessionary and hyperinflationary economy. While the Venezuelan president did not specify which cryptocurrencies are accepted, the government’s Petroapp allows users to buy PTR with BTC, LTC, and DASH.
No International Relevance for Petros
The petro was officially launched in February 2018 by Maduro in an attempt to evade U.S. and European Union sanctions against some state officials and companies. However, many are calling the petro a scam and the U.S. has banned its use.
Last week, he decreed that the sale of all fuel sold by the PDVSA, Venezuela’s state-owned oil and natural gas company, for planes operating international routes be made in petros from now on, AFP reported. Some buyers of Venezuelan crude oil have reportedly halted purchases after the country started demanding payment of port fees in petros.
Furthermore, Maduro has decreed the mandatory use of the petro to pay for state document services including passports. In December, he approved bonuses in petros for state employees and pensioners. The government gave half a petro to 3.5 million public workers and 4.5 million pensioners in December to test the use of the digital currency for payments.
In January, it announced that 1,233,093 people paid with petros at 7,422 stores throughout the national territory during that time period.
The Return of Casinos for the Sake of Petros
The Venezuelan authorities have traditionally frowned upon casinos, Criptonoticias described. In 2011, Maduro’s late mentor, Hugo Chavez, ordered the closure of bingo halls and casinos in the country. Since then, they have practically been extinct and it is only possible to bet online on certain permitted platforms, the news outlet conveyed, noting that Chavez referred to casinos and bingo halls on several occasions as places of prostitution, drug sales, and illegal activities.
Following Friday’s casino announcement, the media started reporting that Venezuela may be warming up to casinos again. The Humboldt Hotel’s casino is expected to begin operations in the coming months, but Maduro did not reveal whether he plans to open more casinos. He also did not provide details about the use of petros and other cryptocurrencies, such as bitcoin, at the hotel.