Illegal Casinos Become Target of Governor’s Wrath in Sinaloa, Mexico Following Murder

The governor of Sinaloa, Mexico, Rubén Rocha Moya, is putting illegal casinos on notice. Following the death of a young man at an underground gambling house on Sunday, he sent a message that the government will shut them all down.

Mexico casino violence
Mexican Army soldiers arrive in Culiacán in Sinaloa to fight increased cartel activity. An illegal casino in the city turned deadly for one patron, leading the governor to promise a crackdown on illegal gambling. (Image: Reuters)

23-year-old Jesús Guadalupe was gambling at an illegal casino set up in a private home in the city of Culiacán when he lost his life. Still-unidentified suspects shot him several times in what appears to be a targeted hit.

As a result, Rocha publicly condemned the attack in a statement and said authorities are working to detect the illegal casinos. He highlighted the poisonous atmosphere they produce, where illicit drugs, fraud, and murder are common.

Murder and Mayhem

Rocha is facing a common problem that plagues cities around the world. Logically, there’s no way to know how many unregulated gambling houses there are.

Analysis values the industry at around $1.7 trillion a year. One major organized crime group, the ‘Ndrangheta, routinely makes over $1.5 billion a year, according to Italian investigators.

There are ways to identify some of the illegal operations, though, especially in smaller cities and towns. For example, abnormal electricity usage, traffic activity, and unusual physical characteristics of a property, such as blacked-out windows, can be clues.

Police are still looking for Guadalupe’s killers, both for answers and for justice. Although the investigation is only now getting underway, there was no indication that he had ties to criminal activity. Neighbors told police that he had lived in the city for more than a year and had a job as a construction mason.

Protection From Within

While Rocha is demanding law enforcement action in Sinaloa, not all elected leaders are against illegal casinos. In Mexico City, the mayor of the Cuajimalpa demarcation, Adrián Rubalcava Suárez, faces accusations of being a major partner in a questionable casino operation.

A new casino is coming to Cuajimalpa, despite the fact that its location violates zoning laws, according to the locals. They assert that there are a number of new illegal casinos, the products of influential and corrupt politicians.

The locals have lodged an official complaint, pointing out that the construction of the project — a conversion of a former business — hasn’t received any permit or approval from Mexico’s gambling regulator. They allege that it doesn’t even have permission from the mayor’s office.

There was reportedly a restaurant on that site, though its license has expired. The owners of the premises are said not to have remodeling permits. In addition, they are accused of using low-quality and highly flammable material in the installation.

Rubalcava, who hasn’t commented on the reports, is allegedly a major shareholder in the company building the casino. At the very least, his reported position and involvement in the casino would be a conflict of interest.

At the other end of the spectrum, he could be complicit in facilitating illegal activity. If the allegations are true, the mayor’s days leading the neighborhood could be numbered.

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