Good story in the Miami Herald about how the US crackdown on Internet gambling is affecting the Costa Rican community, increasing unemployment and poverty rates.

Alina Trejos used to live relatively well, buying a car, paying for college and even taking a European vacation on her salary from a job taking bets on American football.

No more.

A controversial U.S. crackdown on the $12 billion online gaming industry has hit hard in Costa Rica, where an abundance of English speakers and lax laws once made it home to the highest concentration of Internet gambling companies in the world -- nearly 200 -- and earned it the nickname of the ``Las Vegas of the Internet.''

''The Golden Age is definitely over,'' said Nelson Rose, a professor at Whittier College in Southern California and leading expert on gambling laws.

At least 20 online gambling companies with operations here have shut down or are planning to flee to places like Malta since the United States began going after sports books two years ago, according to Eduardo Agami, president of an online gambling trade association in Costa Rica.

''The companies have to make a greater effort to stay afloat,'' Agami said. ``That's a consequence of this invasion-like attack on the industry.''
Former BetonSports employee Leah Palasis, who immigrated from neighboring Nicaragua, returned from vacation last year to find herself without a job. After a lengthy search, she was hired by a call center but now earns less than half the $1,500 she used to make monthly.

The extra income is not all Palasis misses: BetonSports also offered employees private insurance, a game room, gym and tae kwon do lessons, among other perks.

''I mean, Jesus, we had free day care,'' she said.

Those perks are now gone, along with a severance pay that was supposed to amount to $20,000. ''Nobody's getting paid,'' Palasis said.

Money has gotten so tight, Palasis recently sent her daughter to live with relatives in Nicaragua because she can no longer afford to pay a baby sitter.
Since BetonSports closed its San Josť offices, nearly all 2,000 workers have lost their jobs. Many say they've been denied promised severance totaling $4 million.