As BetonSports’ frequent clients wonder where they will make their next wager, most of the company’s employees are wondering where they will earn their next paycheck.
The closing of the BetonSports call center at the SanPedroMall, in eastern San José, means 1,200 bilingual residents are out of a job, said Francisco Conejo, an attorney for BoS Costa Rica, the Costa Rican branch of the London-based sports-betting empire BetonSports PLC.
That’s a lot of people in the same boat with similar qualifications, Carlos Soto, 23, told The Tico Times in the mall’s parking garage as he left after his last day of work Monday.
“It’s hard to find a job with 1,200 other people out of work too,” said Soto, who worked for BetonSports as a line manager for five years.
Meanwhile, his friend and fellow line manager Randall Aguilar, 26, has already found a job at another sportsbook in the La Sabana area in western San José.
“I got a job already because I knew someone, but it’s hard for people who don’t know someone and don’t have contacts,” Aguilar said.
Asked if he is worried about a similar layoff at his new job, Aguilar said, “You can never be so sure with this industry.”
Like many sports gambling call center employees, Aguilar admitted he has grown used to an above-average salary, earning about $1,400 per month. According to the Labor Ministry, Costa Rican workers with “generic qualifications” earn a minimum of $318 per month, while “specialized” workers earn a minimum $598 monthly.
The third friend of the young, articulate group, Gilberto Mussio, 27, said he’s not afraid for the industry’s future.
“Sportsbooks will never die,” said Mussio who, like all his coworkers at BetonSports, speaks nearly flawless English. He learned the language during a year spent in Long Island, New York.
Still, Mussio said he is looking at nonsportsbook related jobs at international companies here such as Hewlett-Packard and IBM, which just expanded its operations in Costa Rica.
The Costa Rican Investment Promotion Agency (CINDE) is hoping BetonSports employees’ job search won’t be as difficult as some of them fear, said CINDE spokesman Douglas Sánchez.
The agency has created a Web site (www.cinde.org/Jobs.shtml) with lists of jobs available at its member companies, which include the call centers Sykes and Language Line, computer companies Intel, Hewlett-Packard and IBM, the financial services company Western Union and Chiquita banana company.
These companies all have a need for English-speaking, computer-literate employees, and 5,000 more jobs are expected to open by the end of the year, Sánchez said.
“There is more of a demand for English speakers in Costa Rica than there are people to fill these jobs,” Sánchez said.
Eduardo Agami, president of the Costa Rican Call Centers and Electronic Data Association, said the sportsbook call center industry can likely absorb BetonSports employees who want to stay in the business.
However, if closures become a trend, it will be more difficult for workers to find jobs as their demand would decrease and their supply increase, he said.