The mighty Iguazu Falls form part of the border between Argentina and Brazil, and most people visiting the falls make sure to see them from both sides of the border, as they give two very different experiences of these giant cataracts. However, the waterfalls aren’t the only thing drawing people across the border… Casino gambling is illegal in Brazil, but it is legal in Argentina, so every evening crowd of Brazilians head across the Bridge of Friendship from the Brazilian town of Foz do Iguazu, all dressed up and ready for an evening’s entertainment in one of the unlikeliest casino cities on earth…
History of gambling at Iguazu Falls
Until the second half of the twentieth century, Puerto Iguazu in Argentina was little more than a village, with a ferry crossing over the Rio Iguazu over to Brazil. Although locals were well aware of the amazing Iguazu Falls just down the river, vanishingly few tourists made their way to this remote part of South America and so apart from a small amount of cross-border smuggling, almost no foreigners were to be found here. All that changed as the 1960s brought the first regular flights from Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro, and hotels started being developed both in Puerto Iguazu, and over the river in Foz do Iguacu. Perhaps even more importantly, the 1960s also saw the outlawing of casino gambling in Brazil, a move which left millions of Brazilian gamblers desperate for somewhere to play.
The wealthy could always fly to Las Vegas or Atlantic City, but at least until recently that was out of the reach of most Brazilians. Even a flight to Buenos Aires wasn’t possible for most people. But a drive to Foz do Iguazu and then over the border? Nao ha problema! Argentinians aren’t shy of a flutter themselves, but since the 1960s, it’s the gambling trade from Brazil which has established Puerto Iguazu as the leading casino centre in northern Argentina.
The largest casino at Iguazu Falls is the Casino Iguazu and this is where any seasoned gambler is likely to spend most of their time while in Puerto Iguazu. Located within the Iguazu Grand hotel, it offers all the facilities you would expect from a modern casino, with 34 gaming tables and more than 200 slots, as well as video game slot machines and video roulette machines. Although the regular table limits aren’t anything to make you nervous, it does host regular monthly high-stakes tournaments where the prizes run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. These attract a lot of international high-rollers, who usually stay in hotels like the Iguazu Sheraton and the Orient Express das Cataratas.
If you’re really more of a novice gambler, on holiday to see the Iguazu Falls rather than on a gambling trip per se, then you might like to take advantage of the free Texas Hold’em lessons every day at the Casino Iguazu, which are held from 6pm to 1am. It’s a great way of spicing up your holiday in Argentina, or of finally getting in some gambling on your holiday in Brazil!
Featured Image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/patrick_nouhailler