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The Association of Managers of Gaming (ASAJA) has announced that more than 150 jobs in the Panamanian casino sector were lost in the month of April, G3 Newswire reports.

ASAJA President Antonio Alfaro told local press that every casino in Panama is now operating with the minimum number of staff possible and two closures are now causing considerable concern within the industry.

The industry is currently facing a number of setbacks and obstacles to growth including increased taxation on the consumer, money laundering fears and a decline in tourism, which began in 2008 with the arrival of the global economic crisis.

The new tax went into effect in May 2015 and applied a tax on cash withdrawals from casinos, slot parlours, bingo halls and sports betting shops of 5.5%. The tax has an especially detrimental effect on the casino industry.

The previous law stated that seven per cent was payable on payouts of $300 or more via slot machines. However, the 5.5% tax applies now to all cash withdrawals.

“We are very concerned about the situation and we have done everything possible, sending reports and studies to the plenary of the Games Control Board (JCJ), to the minister so that they reconsider a law, which does not exist anywhere else in the world,” said Alfaro.

The JCJ revoked the licence of the Veneto Hotel & Casino three years ago, but the hotel had continued to operate under the administration of the JCJ. However, on Friday (April 27th) employees were told that the hotel had closed and on Saturday, the power supply to the building was cut off.