"Juega, Juega," Manzanillo's New Casino

by Susan Dearing

Please click on pictures to enlarge

Gambling madness has hit Manzanillo big time. Probably the most popular business in Manzanillo, with the exception of Miami Beach (a strip bar), Juega, Juega has a definite hold on residents and visitors.

After opening in May of 2008, Juega, Juega (Whey-gah, Whey-gah--is roughly how our gringo tongue would pronounce it), the 150 slot machines do a land office business each night. There are two different companies that make the machines, and there are many games to play, starting at 10 centavos and going up from there. (There are 100 centavos in 1 peso, and there are roughly 10 pesos to the U.S. or Canadian dollar.) To play, customers are given either a receipt with a number, or a plastic card, also numbered and looking similar to a credit card. Which version you get depends on what game you play. You buy credits with your cash (pesos or USD), with a minimum of 10 credits. (10 credits = 1 peso.)

Then choose your game. If you are playing a game that has a paper receipt, punch the number of the receipt in the machine. If you have a plastic card, insert it into the slot. You can play until you've used up your credit. Keep your numbered receipt or plastic card, and the next time you will be on record, so you just buy more credits.  If you loose the receipt or plastic card, you will have to pay $50 pesos (approx. $5 U.S.) for another one.

When the casino has a winner, the slots bells will "ding" an announcement (left). The louder the noise, the bigger the win. There are some slots with a $200,000 peso (approx. $20,000 U.S.) pay-off. Once you win, you can take your receipt to the cashier and receive your money (in pesos), or add it to your card, and keep playing. If you have played Partypoker on the web before then you will know how casino games work. Playing in a real casino is however a very different experience and one well worth trying. Of course there are times when it is much more convenient to just play games at home but a trip to a casino is also great fun. If you live in the area or just want to great gambling experience then this is the place to visit.

According to manager Veronica Rendon Leyva, the Manzanillo casino is the eighth in Mexico. Other casinos are located in Reynosa, Merida, Cancun, San Luis Potosi, Cuidad Juarez, Nuevo Laredo and Tampico. Veronica started working in the Mexico casino business 10 years ago, but at first it was only off-track and sports betting. A single woman of only 31 years, she spends 10 hour days at the casino, 7 days a week. When asked what she thought about Manzanillo, she stated emphatically, "I like it! Everyone is friendly--it's an open-door type of community. It's a very different way of life here, quiet and tranquil, and if I didn't work so many hours, I'd love to spend more time on Manzanillo's beautiful beaches."

Veronica (left, coming through casino door) goes on to explain the other half of the casino, where you can bet on every type of sport from horses and dogs, to football, boxing--whatever is on the 10 wide-screen televisions. If you have an interest in a particular game that isn't being shown, just ask and they'll change the channel. 

With this type of gambling, however, there is a $10 U.S. minimum bet. You can place your bets with Wendy Soberano (right, with Veronica), who speaks excellent English, and really enjoys her work. "I love to see people win. Most are friendly and love the diversion of gambling, and the American and Canadian customers are happy that I can explain how to place the bets and how the scratch sheets work. Many are here almost every day and rack up quite a lot of wins, particularly on the sports games."

When betting on the dogs or horses, the minimum bet is $2 U.S. You are provided with scratch sheets and the constantly-changing odds are posted up to a minute before post time.

The casino offers free coffee and sodas, and drinks and food are very reasonably priced. The restaurant outside the main entrance, "Tacoteros" (right) offers a great selection of tacos, and they will serve you in the casino. Juega, Juega also offers a food menu, a full bar, and fair prices.

If a group or organization is interested in having a special breakfast or lunch there in air-conditioned comfort, you can call Veronica at 336-8510 or e-mail her at veronica.rendon@gmail.com.

Hours for the casino are Sunday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 2 a.m.; and Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 a.m. Clients must be 18 to play or drink alcoholic beverages. There can be as many as 300 customers on weekdays, with a surge of up to 800 on weekends. When you win, you are expected to tip the usher, or the person who takes your bets for sporting events. It is customary to tip 10-15%. You are supposed to tip whether you win or loose, but more if you win. The federal government will withhold 7% of your winnings for tax. The ushers will watch your slot machine for you if you have to use the W.C., but if you go outside to light up (smoking is banned in the casino by federal law), anyone can take your seat.

Juega, Juega is located in the Office Max/Subway mall between Wal-Mart and Soriana, on the beach side of Blvd. Miguel de la Madrid. There is additional parking down the side street next to Office Max. If you get your parking receipt validated in the casino, parking is free.

A second casino is being built on the same side of Blvd. Miguel de la Madrid, across from Plaza Salagua (where the Soriana supermarket is).