Venezuela Turns to Flashy Casinos, SUVs and U.S. Dollars for an Economic Boost

CARACAS, Venezuela—A dozen casinos are opening here in a country where the Socialist government had banned gambling as a capitalist vice. And stores that were barren just a couple of years ago are now flush with imported goods, ranging from $8,000 bicycles to frozen desserts from the Cheesecake Factory.

After seven years in which the economy contracted 80%—what economists call the biggest collapse in decades for a country not at war—Venezuela’s economy may have bottomed out. Gross domestic product will rise anywhere from 5% to 10% in 2021, the first year of growth since authoritarian leader Nicolás Maduro took office in 2013, business consultants and economists estimate.