Argentinean Province of Buenos Aires Legalizes Online Gambling

Governor María Eugenia Vidal has signed a decree to legalize multiple forms of online gambling in Argentina’s Buenos Aires province. The new law will legalize online casino games, horse racing betting, sports betting and poker with international operators allowed to apply for one of seven licenses that will be made available.

Legalizing online betting in Argentina has been a complicated issue with each province able to make its own rules. On top of that, it has been far from an easy process just in Buenos Aires province along with debates over how to regulate online gambling going back years.

Decree 181 was finally approved in December 2018 and was just recently signed by Governor Vidal. Barring any issues implementing the law, Buenos Aires will be the first province to successfully regulate online gambling in Argentina.

Decree 181 in Summary

  • The Buenos Aires Provincial Institute of Lottery and Casinos (IPLyC) will be responsible for overseeing the fledgling online gambling industry.
  • The law makes an allowance for seven online gambling licenses to be granted in the Province of Buenos Aires.
  • Licenses cover sports betting, online casino games, online poker and horse racing.
  • The gambling authority will begin the licensing process for the seven potential licensees.
  • Licensees will need to meet strict qualifying criteria, including sufficient levels of transparency and security.
  • The licenses are not limited to local businesses only and international groups may apply. However, they will need to have a physical presence in the province of Buenos Aires.
  • Licensees will need to pay a 15% tax on online gambling revenues. The province also added an 8% tax charge on individual product verticals and will take another 2% to cover licensing costs – all in all tax rate of 25%.
  • The funds collected by the government will go towards Buenos Aires’ FIDES – Social Development and Integration Fund.

Changing the Face of Gambling in Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires has long had one of the most active gambling industries in the state, with multiple renowned brick-and-mortar establishments operating throughout the country. With the introduction of Decree 181, the province will have one of the most comprehensive legal frameworks in Latin America.

Residents of the province and around the country have long played at online betting sites despite the questionable legality of doing so. Officials have for years highlighted the need for regulations, with the objective being to eradicate illegal gambling.

According to these officials, unregulated online gambling is associated with higher levels of fraud and money laundering. The new decree places full responsibility for gambling activities and public order related to the industry in the hands of the local government.

Authorities have also decried the fact that offshore gambling operators weren’t paying taxes and have no obligations towards Argentinian customers.

The new laws allow offshore gambling operators to gain a crucial foothold in what could be one of Latin America’s largest online gambling markets.

Opposition to Decree 181

Governor Maria Eugenia Vidal’s approval of Decree 181 wasn’t a smooth process. Professional football leagues such as the Superliga and Argentine FA are the most vocal opponents. Up until last month, the leagues demanded that President Mauricio Macri suspend the decree. They have threatened placing a junction on the legislation unless the football clubs are rewarded in some way.

Football groups have argued that the new laws are unconstitutional. They also continue to claim the country’s football clubs have been left out in the cold by the government since authorities did not consult with the leagues about the laws.

Some football clubs have offered alternatives to the government to show their willingness to negotiate while others have taken a harder line.

Lanus Football Club President said this to SBCNews.co.uk:

“We do not rule out taking some measures of force. It is not serious or fair to use football matches to bet and that clubs do not charge a peso. Nobody consulted us anything…we should be allowed to make a presentation to those who are driving reforms.”

Opposition was also heard from other lawmakers. Paula Penacca called Decree 181 “a nefarious project” which would result in “an increase of pathological gambling.” Ines Gorbea was adamant that the new legislation would harm the residents of the City [of Buenos Aires].”

Buenos Aires: The City and the Province

A word about the differences between the Province of Buenos Aires and the Argentinean city:

Since the 1800s, the province has not encompassed the city of the same name. The city of Buenos Aires is an autonomous city and Argentina’s capital. Yet, both of them approved Decree 181 in December, albeit separately, with a commitment to working together.

Just days after the province authorized online gambling, the capital city managed to secure votes of 24:22 to pass the same law. The city had a tougher time than the province with the opposition party being particularly vocal about its concerns regarding problem gambling.

At the end of the voting process for both entities, Governor Vidal and city government head Horacio Rodriguez Larreta vowed to act together to “promote, stimulate and develop a healthy and responsible online gambling market, and to combat unlicensed gambling in all its forms,” according to Gaming Intelligence.

There are 2.9 million people in the city and the province his home to about 16.6 million people.

Online Gambling Could Spread to Other Provinces

Argentinean law dictates that all provinces are responsible for the legalization and regulation for their own online gambling and betting industries.  With Buenos Aires firing the opening shot by introducing new legislation and a taxation framework, other provinces among the 24 that make up the country are keeping a keen eye on these activities.

There is hope that other provinces will eventually follow suit and introduce their own legislation. The provinces likely share the province of Buenos Aires’ sentiments that there is no way to eradicate gambling, and the only way to reduce money laundering and increase customer protection is to legalize and regulate the industry.