In recent weeks, there have been developments regarding the regulation of online gaming in Argentina. Undoubtedly, the rise in illegal iGaming during the quarantine due to the COVID-19 pandemic led several provinces to accelerate procedures and advance in the authorization or, at least, discussion of this issue. To have a clear vision of what is happening in this country, which has 24 independent jurisdictions, G&M News offers a complete and updated map of the current situation of each territory, divided into 5 categories.
GROUP 1. Provinces with iGaming regulated and in operation (9 territories)
This category includes Chaco (Interbet is the online casino operated by IVISA), Entre Rios (B-Gaming, from Boldt Group, provides the platform for the Quini6 Mobile game), Misiones (Wildar Gaming supports the GuazuBet website) , Rio Negro (Casinos del Rio Online works on the platform provided by Vivo Interactive), San Luis (Grupo Slots and Sirplay work together on the popular Jugadon site), Tucuman (Betcortex & Brothering’s support Palpitos24’s technology), while Ondiss, own development of the Casino Club platform, provides services for the Casino Club websites in La Pampa and Santa Cruz, and Casino Magic on Neuquen.
GROUP 2. Provinces with iGaming regulated, but with no operation yet (4)
Formosa launched Formoapuestas in 2006, but then the site closed in 2008. In Santa Fe, Governor Omar Perotti recently signed Decree 998 by which he enabled online gambling for the three land-based casinos in the province: Casino Santa Fe (in Capital city), Melincue Casino & Resort, and City Center (in Rosario city). The first two are owned by the Boldt Peralada Group (a partnership between the Spanish company Grup Peralada and the Argentinean Boldt S.A.), while City Center responds to the partnership between the Spanish Cirsa and Inverclub. About iGaming, at the request of the Caja de Accion Social – Loteria de Santa Fe (Santa Fe lottery regulator), these three gaming rooms will be charged a fee of 12 percent on the gross results (money collection less prizes).
With respect to the Province of Buenos Aires, in March 2019, then-Governor Maria Eugenia Vidal authorized online sports betting to be managed by the Provincial Institute of Lottery and Casinos (IPLyC), headed by Matias Lanusse. By the end of 2019, the Licensing Evaluation Commission had already selected seven of the 16 companies that had submitted (each one constituted a UTE, the Transitory Union of Companies between local and foreign firms) for tender. Each licensee was to have a single non-extendable 15 years license. In tax terms, 8 per cent of gross profits produced by online gaming in the Province would go to General Income Tax, in order to boost education, promotion and social assistance. The remaining percentage would be for the operator, after deduction of the canon to the IPLyC, not less than 2 per cent of gross profits. At the same time, operators had to pay Gross Income (15%). However, the change in political authorities slowed that momentum. Since then, and throughout 2020, neither the new governor Axel Kicillof nor the new head of the IPLyC, Omar Galdurralde, considered it a priority to advance with this issue.
In relation to the City of Buenos Aires, also in 2019, and in parallel with the Province, online gambling and sports betting were approved. The difference is that the same political party continued to govern the City in 2020. Thus, there was an evolution in this process. A few days ago, the six groups already registered in the tender were joined by the operators of land-based gambling in the City: the Palermo Racecourse (companies Hapsa + Casino Club), and the Casino Buenos Aires (Nortia + Hapsa + Casino Club). Due to the crisis of land-based gambling due to the pandemic and the huge loss of income for these operators, the City Government, headed by Horacio Rodriguez Larreta, allowed these companies to enter into the competition for online gaming licenses. Likewise, in the new regulation, the clause of ‘clean record’ was added, which prohibits the granting of licenses to people who are subject to a final prosecution or an oral trial for crimes related to corruption, money laundering, drug trafficking or terrorism. At the same time, the Buenos Aires Legislature passed a law to prevent problematic gambling in the City. This law does not prohibit advertising in online gambling, which can boost business. The virtual betting system in the City, managed by LOTBA, in charge of Martin Garcia Santillan, would start operating before the end of the year.
GROUP 3. Province where iGaming is in the process of being regulated (1)
This is the case of Mendoza. The provincial Senate approved the bill that seeks to regulate the activity, and that takes into account practically all forms of gambling in operation at the international level. The proposal merges two projects that had been presented in the local Congress. According to the president of the Institute of Games and Casinos, Ida Lopez: “Through this regulation, we try to implement an interdisciplinary and uniform responsible gaming policy. Also, we want to comprehensively protect personal data of the participants, as well as prevent money laundering, and strengthen our combat against any illegal gambling offer.” Now, regulations must be analyzed in Deputy Chamber for final approval.
GROUP 4. Provinces where iGaming regulation is in debate (2)
Both, Salta and Cordoba, are discussing legislation and iGaming models in order to advance with the debate on this issue. During last months, for the mandatory quarantine due to COVID-19, which has already been going on for more than 6 consecutive months at the national level in Argentina, in Cordoba and in other provinces, illegal online gambling grew between 20 and 30 per cent. This has caused logical concern in the territory, which would speed the plans for a parliamentary debate on the regulation of online gambling.
GROUP 5. Provinces where iGaming has no regulation and no debate so far (8)
Catamarca, Chubut, Corrientes, Jujuy, La Rioja, San Juan, Santiago del Estero and Tierra del Fuego are in this final list. Due to political, religious or cultural issues, online gambling has not yet reached an instance of deep discussion and analysis.
THE CONTINUOUS WORK OF ALEA
With half a century of excellent work in the industry, which has earned it prestige at the regional and international levels, the Argentine State Lottery Association (ALEA) is the governing body that brings together the 24 regulators in the country. One of its main representatives is Silvio Vivas, the president of the IAFAS institute of Entre Rios. In dialogue with G&M News on this matter, Vivas noted: “iGaming challenges the federal view of gaming in Argentina. At one point, there was a project to achieve a general coordinated online gambling agreement that would govern each and every one of the 24 territories of the country. I was in favor of this idea which, finally, did not prosper. At Entre Rios, we have been successfully operating online gambling for 10 years, in a dynamic but limited market, with the Quini6 Mobile product. We also offer Tombola and online casino. In our province, and throughout the country, technological advances make us quicken processes to respond to the needs and demands of players, and to the dynamics of the online market. That is why this is an urgent topic, which needs to be taken into account by all the provinces.”
To respond to these requirements, ALEA has been implementing meetings in which online gambling is deeply analyzed and discussed. One of the most recent was the workshop ‘A look at online gambling management in Argentina. Adaptation and Challenges,’ a training proposal that was offered via Zoom on September 10th, 14th and 16th, with the participation of 174 executives. Among the points in debate in these meetings were the international context of iGaming, the current legislative framework in Argentina, the management models and types of online gambling, responsible gaming and the prevention of Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism.
Of course, these valuable deliberations and the internal discussion in each jurisdiction will allow delving into the characteristics and possibilities of implementing online gaming in each province of the Argentine territory. As can be seen in the map developed by G&M News, more and more jurisdictions are regulating the activity, which contributes to the reduction of illegal gambling and the generation of income for the State that will be used for social purposes. There is a lot of work ahead, but Argentina is decisively moving forward. Probably, in a couple of years, players throughout the Republic will have the possibility to responsibly enjoy this type of entertainment and help all citizens with part of their spending.