Argentina Cracking Down on Local Betting Sites

Four individuals connected to an online betting site based out of Argentina have been ordered not to leave the country pending an investigation into their activities. Quinton Gregori Marshall, Diego Israel Céspedes, Federico Fernández de Francesco, and Margarita Teresa Boeiro now await their fates as federal authorities build a case against the four.

The four are believed to be the owners of local betting site Miljugadas.com and are being held in-country on suspicion of violating Article 301 of the Criminal Code. That law was amended in 2016 to give it bigger teeth as Argentinian authorities seek to shut down unauthorized betting sites based in Argentina.

Diario Popular reports that this is the first time the new law has been applied in the real world. Chamber Prosecutor Martín Lapadú is in charge of the investigation and issued a statement explaining that illegal bets are no longer a minor conduct, but are a federal crime with penalties of up to six years in prison. He also explained that the strengthened law provides authorities with tools to investigate this crime throughout the country.

Miljugadas is based out of Misiones, a province which has actually granted gambling licenses in the past. It is unclear if Miljugadas is licensed to do business in Misiones, but actions taken against the site last year were based on the site’s continued acceptance of wagers from customers located in other provinces.

Argentina’s gambling laws are a complicated mess of state-level and federal laws that set up many situations like this where something may be legal in one province but outlawed in another. Although it is an unfortunate situation for anyone involved in the business, it does sound as though the operators of Miljugadas should have known better.

According to a CalvinAyre.com post on the matter, authorities suspended the Miljugadas.com domain last year and froze bank accounts connected to the operation. Local news sources also reported that authorities raided and closed Miljugadas offices in Oberá and Posadas in the province of Misiones.

The operators reportedly chose to test their luck. Instead of shutting down or changing the way the business operated, they set up alternative websites at domains such as Miljugadas1.com, Miljugadas2.com and Miljugadas55.com.

Individual customers of gambling sites have not been targeted for action to date. So far, the Argentinian government has chosen instead to focus its enforcement efforts on the providers of gambling services.

Argentina’s Ongoing Online Gambling Saga

The fate of the four named individuals now rests in the hands of national prosecutors who seem intent on cracking down on unauthorized gambling in Argentina. The federal government has expressed an interest in creating a national regulatory regime, but there has been pushback from various provinces.

The province of Misiones has likewise attempted to license certain betting sites and allow its lottery operator to go online. The Misiones lottery operator set up a website at Misionbet.com.ar in 2015, but the same prosecutor who is today going after Miljugadas was able to get that site shut down back in May. However, that site has since been given the green light to reopen with stronger geolocation tools in place to prevent access to people located outside Misiones.

What makes this whole situation frustrating for Misiones operators is the fact that international betting sites continue to serve Argentinian players without interference from local authorities. Even as Miljugadas.com and Misionbet.com.ar have been shut down, sites such as PokerStars are advertising on local media and extracting money from the Argentine economy without consequence.

Argentina’s national association of lotteries (ALEA) has in the past advocated for the creation of a national framework for regulating online gambling, but is also strongly against the federal government taking action. The ALEA wants the provinces to have more control and the ability to opt-in at will, and argues that federal legislation would violate Argentina’s constitution. Now, all indications point to it being quite some time before Argentina is able to implement sensible gaming laws at the national level.