Illegal gaming: A Buenos Aires Province experience

The expert Gricelda Soledad Ruibal (Play In Group) makes an in-depth analysis on the modalities of illicit gambling in this important territory of Argentina, and points out the best tools used to combat it.

By Gricelda Soledad Ruibal, Founding Partner, Play In Group Consulting*

Email: grisolrui@gmail.com
Website: https://www.linkedin.com/in/gricelda-soledad-ruibal-855aa7197/

When trying to consider different aspects of the gaming market in Argentina, it is necessary to clarify to the readers some essential issues. The first fact to keep in mind is that the regulation of gambling in Argentina is the faculty of each province. The country has 23 provinces plus the Autonomous City of Buenos Aires, which has its own rules on gaming. This is because the activity is not included within the functions of the Legislature established in article 75 of the Constitution, and because the Supreme Court of Justice, in a ruling issued on May 31st, 1999, indicated that the regime in the matter (including lotteries, casinos, bingos and slot machines) and its possible infractions are not a federal issue. The second fact about the Province of Buenos Aires is that it has an area of 307,000 square km, with a total of 16.6 million inhabitants. This represents 47 percent of the national gaming market. About the intense gaming activity in the Province, there are 4,156 official lottery agencies, 45 bingo halls, 12 casinos and 5 racetracks. The regulatory gaming authority is the Provincial Institute of Lottery and Casinos (IPLyC), which has different attributions: 1) to administer: gambling and its derivations; 2) to exploit gambling (licenses) by itself or through third parties; 3) to control gambling, and other games and activities within the area of the Province; and 4) to raise awareness about Responsible Gambling through a program of problematic gambling prevention and assistance.

HOW DOES ILLEGAL GAMING WORK IN THE PROVINCE OF BUENOS AIRES?
This Province considers ‘Illegal Gambling’ to “any organization, exploitation and commercialization of gambling, mutual bets and/or related activities, not authorized by the Application Authority”, in this case, the IPLyC. Only games that take place in a familiar environment are out of this category, “with the exclusive participation of family members and guests.” There is an advanced system of operation of illegal gaming in the territory. Firstly, there are the gaming ‘pasadores’, those that “make pools.” How do they do that? They move through the neighborhoods of the province by bicycle, walking or contacting players by phone. Why doesn’t the client decide to legally bet? In illicit bets, there’s a lot of ‘on credit’ betting. There is also the convenience of ‘delivery’ (people who take bets go door to door visiting clients). Generally, this is a bad habit, an old tradition from many neighborhoods or towns in the interior of the Province.

The illegal and the official lottery pay the same: 690 times the bet for hitting the “two figures” of the pool. However, the winner of the parallel lottery eludes -if he/she is very lucky- to pay 30 percent of the Income Tax that any winner should pay to the State. The system also has the complicity of police authorities and/or political pointers, who approve this mechanism, turn a blind eye and also enrich themselves with this practice. Although the secrecy of these bets is an artisanal work, multiplied by thousands represents an estimated total of almost $3 billion (US$48.4 million) annually in the Province. The collection of illegal gambling exceeds four times that of legal gambling.

HOW TO FIGHT AGAINST IT?
Until 2016, the activity of illegal gambling was considered only a contravention, and received penalties of up to two years in prison, in accordance with Law 13,470 on the Prevention and Repression of Illegal Gambling, which had been in force since May 23rd, 2006. As of December 2016, Law 27,346 considered a new criminal type for illegal gaming by including in the Criminal Code article 301 bis, which says: “It will be punished with imprisonment of three (3) to six (6) years the person who exploits, administers, operates or in any way organizes, by itself or through third parties, any modality or system for gambling without having the relevant authorization issued by the competent jurisdictional authority.” Undoubtedly, this change pointed to the heart of illicit gaming, by defining that old ‘custom’ of people as an illegal act. Even with only one complaint, the possible illegal act could already be investigated by prosecutors. This resulted in an increase in the fight against illegality during the term of Governor Maria Eugenia Vidal, with Meliton Eugenio Lopez (first) and Matias Lanusse (later) as heads of IPLyC. As of the enactment of the new law, there were officially in the Province of Buenos Aires some 354 raids with 322 detainees, and the intervention of 33 Municipalities. The total money recovered was more than $54 million (at today’s exchange, about US$870,967). Currently, illegal gambling and betting can be reported anonymously through the phone line 0800-999-263, via e-mail and through the mobile application “Seguridad Provincia.”

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*With more than 15 years of professional experience advising companies in the gaming sector (in legal, technical and accounting aspects), among others, currently, Gricelda Soledad Ruibal if founding partner at Play In Group Consulting and Director of Institutional Relations at Gaming Solution Technology. From her extensive resume, it should be highlighted her work as former Coordinator of Hiperion Program, from the Systems Directorate of the Buenos Aires Province Lottery (IPLyC). Ruibal stands out in coordination of interdisciplinary work teams, and in conflict resolution and negotiation.

She is a National Public Accountant from Universidad Nacional de La Plata, Buenos Aires Province (Argentina), and has Postgraduate degrees in Taxation (Universidad Nacional de La Plata), and Audit and Fraud Detection (Consejo Profesional de Ciencias Economicas, Buenos Aires City). Regarding the gaming industry, this executive has participated in different seminars and congresses organized by ALEA, CIBELAE and GLI.