Gambling Legislation Across Latin America: A Complete Guide to the Current Legal Status of Gambling Games in LATAMPublished May 19, 2023 by Brett C
Explore the current legal landscape of gambling games in Latin America. From Argentina's provincial regulations to Brazil's progress in sports betting and Colombia's comprehensive framework, discover the diverse approaches across the region. Uncover opportunities, challenges, and emerging trends in this dynamic industry.
Latin America's gambling landscape is dynamic and evolving, with varying regulations and legal frameworks governing the industry across different countries. This article provides a comprehensive guide to the current legal status of gambling games, focusing on online gambling in the region. From recent groundbreaking developments to emerging opportunities, we explore the newsworthy updates and trends shaping gambling legislation across Latin America.
The Regulatory Landscape
The regulatory landscape across Latin America is complex, with each country having its own set of laws and regulations about gambling. While some countries have embraced online gambling through progressive legislation, others may still have restrictions or are considering regulatory reforms. This diversity creates a unique and challenging environment for operators and stakeholders in the industry.
LATAM Market Potential
Latin America presents a promising market for the iGaming industry, with its large population and growing economic activity. Operators can tap into this vast potential as the region continues to adopt and adapt to changing gambling legislation. The emergence of new markets and the growth of existing ones contribute to the overall expansion and dynamism of the industry in Latin America.
The iGaming conversation in 2023 is heavily focused on emerging markets, and Latin America is at the forefront of this discussion. The region offers multiple new opportunities for operators and presents significant growth potential. The stable growth observed in markets that have already regulated online casinos and sportsbooks further solidifies Latin America's position as a critical player in the iGaming landscape.
With a population of nearly 45 million, Argentina is Latin America's fourth-largest country and second-biggest economy. Gambling is regulated province-by-province, with operators only allowed to offer their services to residents of their province.
Argentina's online gaming and betting sector is estimated to generate approximately $2.4 billion in annual revenues. Recent government measures have increased the federal tax on online gambling to 5%. Provinces like Buenos Aires also tax operators based on their gross gaming revenue.
Argentina has fragmented online gambling legislation, with regulations varying across provinces. Some provinces, such as Buenos Aires and Misiones, have legalised and regulated online gambling, while others have yet to establish clear rules or prohibit it entirely. This fragmented landscape makes it essential for operators to navigate the diverse regulatory environment in Argentina.
Brazil, Latin America's largest & most populous nation, is routinely called a sleeping giant in the gambling industry. Most forms of gambling are currently prohibited, but progress has been made towards regulating the sports betting sector. Caixa runs lotteries, and jockey clubs offer offline horserace betting.
Once the new betting regulations come into effect, Brazil is set to have the continent's largest land-based and online sports betting market. With a population of over 200 million and a nationwide passion for sports, particularly football, Brazil offers an attractive opportunity for sportsbook operators looking to expand into South America.
Brazil has been working towards a comprehensive legal framework for online gambling. The country's sports betting market was legalised in 2018 through the passage of Law No. 13,756. Although implementing online betting regulations has faced delays, recent progress in 2023 indicates a positive direction. The potential of the Brazilian market, with its large population and strong interest in sports, has drawn attention from the iGaming industry.
Bolivia strictly prohibits online gambling under its current laws, making it illegal for unauthorised remote gambling activities, including sports betting, online casinos, and poker sites, to operate in the country. The government of Brazil has not granted any licenses to online gambling sites to run operations in Brazil.
Bolivia maintains stringent regulations restricting access to online gambling platforms to uphold the prohibition of unauthorised remote gambling. Consequently, operators and players should know the legal restrictions and avoid engaging in online gambling activities within Bolivia's jurisdiction.
Chile is currently in the process of considering regulations for online gambling. The Ministry of Finance introduced a bill in March 2022 to legalise and regulate online gambling activities. The proposed rules would allow the legalisation of casino gaming and sports betting to increase tax revenues and ensure player safety.
Currently, sports betting is operated as a state monopoly in Chile, while online casinos are illegal. However, if the bill to regulate online gambling passes, an unlimited number of licenses is expected to be available. Potential operators would be required to pay an annual fee to Chile's national casino gaming authority and be subject to a tax on the Gross Gaming Revenue (GGR).
Colombia, with a population of over 50 million and a strong passion for football, is one of the largest markets in Latin America for online gambling. As a result, the country introduced Resolution 4,656 in 2016, pioneering a comprehensive regulatory framework for online gambling and allowing for the legalisation and regulation of online casino games, sports betting, and poker. Since then, Colombia's gaming and betting market has experienced consistent growth, contributing to the country's economy and presenting promising opportunities for operators in this dynamic sector.
Costa Rica, known for its economic and political stability, has become a thriving hub for the online gambling industry. Despite laws from 1922 and 1974 technically prohibiting games of chance, the government's unofficial tolerance has allowed the country to attract around 450 iGaming-related companies. Furthermore, gambling companies can establish their operations in Costa Rica to comply with local regulations, which prohibit offering services to Costa Rican citizens but allow accepting players from other jurisdictions. In addition, the absence of taxes on internet gambling revenues further enhances Costa Rica's appeal to online casino operators.
The Dominican Republic has witnessed the growth of its casino industry alongside tourism development. In the 1960s and 70s, gambling was legalised, and tax incentives were provided to private companies investing in tourism, including casinos. While all forms of gambling are regulated in the country, fantasy and virtual sports betting fall into a regulatory grey area. Operators seeking online gambling licenses in the Dominican Republic are subject to costs of approximately $230,000 and administrative fees. They must also adhere to a 10% turnover tax, contribute to the National Directorate of Casinos and Games of Chance, and withhold 25% of players' winnings for the national treasury.
In 2012, Ecuador implemented stringent measures that resulted in the closure of brick-and-mortar casinos and bingo halls. Furthermore, these restrictions were extended to encompass online gambling as well. However, in 2019, the Association of Former Casino Workers of Ecuador began advocating for a reversal of the gambling ban, highlighting the potential loss of revenue as Ecuadorian citizens sought gambling opportunities in neighbouring countries. Despite these appeals, the government has yet to consider legislation for re-regulating the gambling sector.
The Gambling Prevention Act of Guyana generally prohibits gambling activities, but certain exceptions exist, such as lotteries and pool betting. In 2007, the country legalised casino gaming as part of an initiative to stimulate its tourism sector. Consequently, two casinos were established exclusively catering to hotel guests.
Although Guyana does not have explicit laws against online gambling, the revocation of gambling licenses held by remote gambling companies occurred in 2013, resulting in an uncertain regulatory landscape for online gambling activities.
Mexico, with its population exceeding 120 million and a significant mobile penetration rate, presents abundant opportunities for online casino and sportsbook operators. The country boasts comprehensive regulations covering various forms of gambling, although land-based card rooms and fantasy sports remain relatively less regulated.
The primary legislation governing gambling in Mexico is the Federal Gaming and Raffles Law of 1947. While this law does not explicitly address online gambling, it has been subject to interpretation that allows licensed operators to provide online gambling services. Despite efforts to introduce specific legislation to regulate online gambling, such measures have not yet been passed, resulting in a partially unregulated Mexican market where players often resort to accessing offshore gambling sites.
In Nicaragua, online gambling was legalised in 2011, establishing the Nicaraguan Gaming Control Board as the regulatory authority. Operators must acquire licenses from the board to ensure compliance with gambling laws. Online gambling is limited to individuals aged 18 and above, with operators required to have a physical presence in Nicaragua for licensing. Taxes imposed on online gambling operators vary depending on the type of game offered. While Nicaragua allows online gambling, specific restrictions apply to certain game types and advertising practices.
On the other hand, Panama passed the Online Gaming Act in 2002, explicitly legalising online gambling and establishing the Panama Gaming Control Board as the regulatory body. The board is responsible for granting licenses and providing oversight in the industry. However, despite the favourable regulatory environment, Panama's online gambling market remains relatively smaller than neighbouring countries, as many players still engage in offshore gambling websites.
Paraguay has adopted a unique approach to online gambling regulation. While the country has regulations for its land-based gambling industry, online gambling operates in a legal grey area. No specific laws or licenses are available for online operators, resulting in an unregulated activity. Consequently, players often use offshore gambling sites for their online gaming experiences.
Peru is making strides towards regulating online gambling and sports betting as proposed legislation seeks to establish a comprehensive framework. The new laws would require approved gambling sites to operate within Peru through locally registered domains and maintain a legal representative. This move is expected to have a significant economic impact, with revenue projections surpassing $409 million within five years. In addition, to ensure a secure and transparent gambling environment, the proposed regulations include ISP blocking and advertising bans, drawing inspiration from successful approaches implemented in neighbouring Colombia.
The online gambling landscape remains limited in Uruguay, except for sports betting and state-controlled lottery games. However, the government is actively working to expand the scope by introducing legislation that aims to exempt online casino games from the existing ban on online gambling. This progressive step aims to channel online gambling activities into a regulated sector, prioritising consumer protection and enhancing the player experience.
Venezuela allows online gambling under strict regulations by the National Commission of Casinos, Bingo Halls, and Slot Machines (CNC). Online gambling operators must establish a physical presence within Venezuela, comply with anti-money laundering regulations, and adhere to guidelines on permissible game types. In addition, certain forms of gambling, such as sports betting, are prohibited. This carefully regulated framework ensures legal access to online gambling while maintaining robust oversight to safeguard the industry's integrity.
Changing Regulations for the Gambling Industry
In conclusion, this comprehensive guide has provided insights into the current legal status of gambling games in Latin America. Each country in the region has its unique regulatory landscape, presenting both challenges and opportunities for operators and stakeholders.
From Argentina's province-by-province regulation to Brazil's progress in regulating sports betting and Uruguay's efforts to expand the scope of online gambling, we have seen a range of approaches. Colombia stands out as a leading market with a comprehensive regulatory framework, while Costa Rica's tolerance of online gambling has attracted numerous operators.
Venezuela's strict regulations aim to maintain integrity, while Panama offers a favourable regulatory environment. Peru is progressing towards comprehensive regulation, and Paraguay operates in a legal grey area. With growing markets, economic impact, and emerging trends, Latin America's gambling industry holds immense potential.
As the region continues to navigate and shape its gambling legislation, operators and stakeholders can seize the opportunities presented by this vibrant and dynamic landscape.