Latin America News Roundup

Study Reveals Still Room for Growth in Gaming Sector
A study carried out by this research group Quali on behalf of the Colombian Gaming Control Board (Coljuegos) has revealed that in 40 percent of households someone has gambled at least once within the last three months. The study, which was carried out in the cities of Bogotá, Cali, Medellín, Barranquilla, Pereira and Bucaramanga, concluded that there is still plenty of opportunity to bring more gaming brands into the market with newer models especially aimed at those with a higher income and young adults. The study also found that demand is particularly high for online gaming and live in-play gaming across multiple platforms.

According to the study, online gaming is becoming increasingly popular especially among more affluent Colombians, with 60 percent of the gambling public using the Internet to make a bet. Baltazar Medina, head of the Colombian Federation of Gaming Businessmen (FECEAZAR), said the report was highly encouraging as it pointed to the fact that there was still room for considerable growth in the sector. “Rather than seeing the landscape as Colombians betting small amounts, a more accurate reading is that we are still a small market with great potential. What this means is that there is plenty of opportunity to bring more gaming brands with newer models on board,” he said.

Colombia is a potentially lucrative market for operators. After a number of corruption scandals, the previous gaming control board, the Empresa Territorial para la Salud (ETESA), was replaced in 2012 with a new board made up of members from a number of government ministries, and with its director appointed by the president. Coljuegos has laid out plans to increase gaming revenue through a renewed crackdown on illegal gaming and the introduction of a variety of new games into the sector. In addition, Coljuegos is now meeting with industry representatives to implement a system in which all slot machines in the country will be monitored in real time by a centrally controlled server.

Details Emerge Regarding Mexico’s New Gaming Act
Mexico’s gaming landscape looks set to experience considerable change with a new gaming act on the way. A committee of 11 deputies have been looking into how licenses have been granted by the Interior Ministry (SEGOB) for more than a year now, and details have emerged as to how their recommendations could shape gaming in the near future. Chaired by Deputy Ricardo Mejia Berdeja, the cross-party committee was convened in April 2013 after growing reports of corruption and allegations that former members of SEGOB had trafficked licenses. The committee was also given the additional responsibility of suggesting any changes to Mexico’s gaming laws—which date back to 1947—on the back of its findings.

According to local press reports, the guiding principle of any new legislation would seek to impose much harsher penalties on those found to be operating outside the terms of their licenses. This would be achieved through a new regulatory body that would be responsible for the carrying out of on site inspections and the issuing of licenses. A new registry of all gaming establishments would be made available to the public to ensure a higher level of transparency in the sector. Player protection will be a high priority, and it looks increasingly likely that a number of measures will be put in place to protect the consumer and combat gambling addiction.

While it becomes increasingly apparent that Mexico’s gaming laws are out of date and need to be changed, a new gaming law not only has the backing of the committee but also a large number of lawmakers. Crucially, it is also being pushed forward by Head of Mexico’s Interior Ministry Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong. New gaming legislation could be put forward as early as Mexico’s next legislative session, which begins in September.

New Gaming Law in the Cards in Uruguay
The government of Uruguay is considering a sweeping new gaming law that would impose much stiffer penalties on those found to be operating slot machines illegally, and also would establish a new regulatory body. The new law is aimed primarily at curbing illegal gaming, which has been on the rise in recent years with the government having little power when it comes to closing down illegal establishments. According to government sources, there could be as many as 20,000 illegal slot machines located nationwide in shops and small businesses.

The new law seeks to impose prison sentences of up to three years and establish a new governing body called the National Management of State Gambling and Casinos. The new law ensures that the government monopoly over gaming remains in place and would, in the future, extend to online gaming. The new law would oblige the National Lottery to work on regulation that would ban offshore operators from offering their services locally. Instead, only the National Lottery would be authorized to run gaming over the Internet.

Speaking to local press, Javier Chá, head of the Uruguayan Gaming Board, explained that the aim of the new act was to improve the industry by increasing government control. “The intention is to improve and perfect the presence of the state in the area of gaming with the objective of improving the taxation, regulation and transparency as well as more efficient operation,” he said. The new proposals have been submitted to the Uruguayan Parliament and are awaiting approval from lawmakers.

Puerto Rico
Sports Betting Could Help Beleaguered Casino Industry
A Puerto Rico lawmaker has submitted a bill to the House of Representatives that would allow for sports betting in the casinos on the island. According to the draft bill, casinos would be permitted to offer sports betting on both professional and amateur leagues, located outside the United States and Puerto Rico. The new law is designed to provide a stimulus to the casino industry, which is struggling to stay afloat due to high costs and a proliferation of illegal slots throughout the island.

According to the most recent data available, there are now only about 7,300 licensed slot machines located in 21 casinos and hotels compared with the 25,000 that operate without a license. The growth of illegal gambling, especially in businesses and illegal slot parlors, has led to a number of closures over recent years and to a shortfall in revenue for the tourism industry as tax revenue generated from slot machines accounts for 50 percent of the budget for the Department of Tourism. Gaming revenue is also a vital source of funding for the biggest state-run college on the island, the University of Puerto Rico.

Speaking about the project, Congressman Angel Matos García explained, “We are extending the offer of games in casinos; it is about bringing new money to casinos.”

In order for the law to go into effect, the House of Representatives will need to amend the island’s gaming laws first, and the new law will also need to be then approved by the Department of Tourism. The maximum stake on sports betting will be $10,000, according to current proposals. The new law could prove favorable as attempts to address the growth of illegal gambling have so far failed, with lawmakers unable to agree as whether to legalize slot parlors or ban them altogether.

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