Nuevo Leon state launched a new offensive Wednesday against the proliferation of gambling halls as a top politician's brother was videotaped taking wads of cash inside a casino days before a casino fire killed 52 people.
Nuevo Leon Gov. Rodrigo Medina announced initiatives to ban new betting operations and to better regulate existing ones, as well as a corruption probe into Jonas Larrazabal, brother of Monterrey Mayor Fernando Larrazabal who was caught on videotape visiting several unidentified casinos and being handed large amounts of money.
The newspaper Reforma, which published the images Wednesday, estimated that one wad of cash passed in a cell phone box was 400,000 pesos ($32,000). Mayor Fernando Larrazabal said that he supports the probe.
"First of all, the people voted for Fernando Larrazabal, and I'm not responsible for my brother's actions," he said. "I will ask the prosecutor to investigate and bring whoever is responsible to justice."
Gunmen entered the Casino Royale in Monterrey last Thursday, spread gasoline and set the building on fire, trapping and asphyxiating dozens of gamblers and employees in what's believed to be a case of extortion. Most of the victims were women playing bingo and slots or lunching that afternoon.
The five suspects arrested so far confessed to being part of the Zetas drug cartel. Authorities says they are searching for seven others, as well as the owner of the casino, who is believed to be in the United States.
It was the worst attack related to drug violence on civilians since President Felipe Calderon launched his crackdown on organized crime in 2006. At least 35,000 people have died in drug violence since then, according to government figures, though other sources put the number at 40,000.
Calderon declared three days of national mourning after the casino attack.
Medina also said he will push for changes in federal law so that no concession is granted for a casino without the approval of state and local authorities.
Larrazabal said the Casino Royale and 12 more of Monterrey's 29 casinos violated municipal laws but were allowed to remain open after obtaining federal court injunctions.