MY TRIP TO COSTA RICA 11/05/03 - Stephen Nover

Paris has the Mona Lisa. New York has the Statue of Liberty. San Jose, Costa Rica has the Del Rey hotel.
Before we get to the Del Rey, a little business must be discussed with some personal reflections from a recent first-time visit to San Jose, Costa Rica. That's not to be confused in any way with San Jose, California.

Taxi rides are cheap, about one-third of a normal U.S. fare. It helps to speak a little Spanish. Although enough people know English so you won't feel out of place.

Ever wonder what traffic would be like if there weren't any police? Come to San Jose if you want to find out. It's like playing a video game. There's no reason to have stop signs, because no one stops for them. Everybody seemed to know what they were doing, though. Still, I never stopped holding my breath when my taxi driver went blindly through stop signs. Call the traffic scene controlled chaos.

Drag racing was going on at one main intersection during an evening. Instead of being appalled, people were lined up to watch and enjoy. It was entertainment.

There are no street addresses, so it's hard to get mail. Some of the sports books located in San Jose are in unnamed but fancy high-rise buildings. You can figure them out because there is a guard at the doorway armed with an Uzzi. I'm not talking about a toy gun either. It's like being in the middle of a scene out of Scarface.

But Al Pacino isn't running things. There are just low-key bookmakers who mostly prefer to remain anonymous. I had a chance to meet and dine with some of them. A number of things came out during our conversation. But per our agreement, I can't quote any by name. But some are well-known in the industry.

Though the bookmaking community in Costa Rica is highly competitive, they seem close-knit. Word of mouth and honor are huge. Many do transfers with each other and constantly stay in touch.

Some are very down on the posting forums at various gaming Web sites because they say there are agendas, lies and wrong information being spread. Bookmakers say good posters are needed and proven bad ones should be permanently banned.

They wish the U.S. government would leave Internet betting alone. Some believe the U.S. government tries to interfere with offshore bookmaking because of jealousy. The U.S. government realizes it is missing out on a bunch of lost revenue, but doesn't know how to save face.

Asked why they wouldn't invite U.S. politicians to Costa Rica so they could see for themselves that offshore booking is a legitimate business, one well-known director said U.S. politicians have visited before. This bookmaker said U.S. politicians who did visit offshore operations came away realizing how wrong the U.S. position is on Internet sports betting.

America has never gotten away from its outdated Pilgrim ideas of morality. In Costa Rica, and other Latin American countries and islands, you can do just about anything you want. Prostitution and gambling are legal and accepted normal forms of entertainment.

There is usually corruption in these governments, and that's why there are many poor areas. But the native people seem to accept this. Making money isn't an overriding factor with them. Family is very big. People are friendly and better educated than you might think.

There are some casinos in downtown San Jose. There's even a Binion's casino, just like the one in Las Vegas. Near Binion's is the Del Rey hotel, which has a sports book, restaurant and blackjack tables. It also has a bar with wall-to-wall hookers. There are more prostitutes in this one cramped bar than in all of Nevada's Cat Houses.

We're not talking about older, hard-edged, bitter women. Most are extremely good-looking girls in their early 20s who don't feel any stigma about how they earn money. They come in all shapes and sizes. Many are from Colombia. Some go to college. Some are religious. I saw several hookers give change to a beggar boy with a deformed foot.

It's a very different experience going into a bar and discovering you're the prey. These girls aren't afraid to brush up and even grab different parts of your anatomy as you work your way up to the crowded bar. Make even the slightest eye contact and chances are good you'll soon be joined and having a conversation.

Being a married guy, I couldn't quote you a price. But I'm told it's between $40 and $100, with the girls preferring American dollars to colones.

A bar like this would be the most popular in the United States. Too bad it can't happen here.

One man's account of my never ending political Spring Break bookmaking career nightmare.

the native people there are very friendly. can't speak for the books, I've spoken with a lot of dirtbags and also some cool cats- it's a coin toss. CR is almost like the opposite of san diego, where you will find more douchebags with little man's disease (even if they're not little) than any other city. strange for such a beautiful town. that bar sounds like centerfolds, our chicks hustle really hard.

Love to head there one day, great place from what I have heard... love to fish and thats the place