Buenos Aires Gives Green Light To iGaming

In a major development, Buenos Aires has made a landmark decision by giving LatAm casino giant Codere a license to operate online gaming in the city. This choice comes after a year of waffling on the topic of legal gambling in Buenos Aires — and, by extension, Argentina as a whole — following an election upset in the late summer and fall of 2019, which saw the country’s government replaced by an anti-gambling faction.

The Puerto Madero bridge in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

This week marked the biggest entry into iGaming in Argentina, as Codere received approval to proceed in the licensing process. ©MonicaVolpin/Pixabay

Before August 2019, Gambling In Argentina Looked Promising

Leading up to the primary elections in August 2019, promising discourse was being had in Argentina regarding the future of legal iGaming, as well as the future of the country’s gambling industry. In Buenos Aires, Argentina’s capital province, then-Governor María Eugenia Vidal was in talks to approve a number of casino licenses.

Then, August hit, and with it, the primary elections for the country’s Presidential and local elections. In a surprise upset, the country’s leftist party swept the national and local elections, replacing then-President Mauricio Macri with Justicialist Party leader Alberto Ángel Fernández.

In Buenos Aires, María Eugenia Vidal was replaced by Axel Kicillof, a left-leaning politician who is currently identified as an Independent politician, not representative of any specific party. Still, from August to October, when the elections were finalized, the state of gambling in Argentina — and particularly in Buenos Aireswas in limbo.

The Peculiar Role Of Buenos Aires

Though Buenos Aires is just one of Argentina’s 23 provinces, it is the capital province, and its capital city, also called Buenos Aires, can often set the example for all legislation in the country. Therefore, particular attention was paid to the gambling laws being passed — or not passed — in Buenos Aires to determine the rest of the country’s actions.

Until COVID, Stricter Laws Set In Place

With Argentina’s newly-elected leftist government in place, a brief spell of uncertainty was soon replaced with what seemed to be a legislative crackdown on existing laws on gambling in the country. Prior to the pandemic, several laws were introduced which implied Argentina’s new leadership would distinctly backtrack any iGaming lenience.

One particularly dramatic instance came at SAGSE, a leading gambling industry conference held in Buenos Aires in November 2019. At the time, a number of officials from Buenos Aires’s government announced that the provincial government would overtake control of the lottery for the future, rendering 1300 private businesses defunct.

This dovetailed with an earlier ruling from Argentina’s central bank, which mandated that gamblers in Argentina would not be able to use credit, debit, or prepaid cards in overseas currency exchanges, including in online gambling. Both of these measures indicate a desire for Argentina’s government to more thoroughly control gambling revenue internally.

When COVID Begins, A Major Quandary

Since the pandemic, however, Argentina has seen a number of confounding — and, at times, overtly contradictory — decisions made regarding the fate of legal gambling in the country and in Buenos Aires specifically. In May, a Buenos Aires court effectively halted ongoing discussions to expand legalized online casino options.

At the time, a number of brick-and-mortar casinos in Buenos Aires had expressed financial devastation due to ongoing and indefinite business closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With the judge’s decision in May, it was ruled that these casinos would not be able to create iGaming options, putting the process in judicial purgatory.

In August, Contradictory Decisions

Then, in August, two back-to-back announcements came from casinos in Buenos Aires indicating backdoor entry points to legal iGaming and online sports betting. First, a partnership with Grupo Slots and Gaming Innovation Group, meaning that Grupo Slots users could access GiG’s online gaming and sports betting options.

This was followed almost immediately thereafter by an announcement from Buenos Aires’s Casino de Puerto Madero, indicating that the brick-and-mortar casino in Argentina’s capital city had received a previously unthinkable license to operate online gambling to its customers: a landmark decision.

Go Big Or Go Home: A Partnership With Codere

This week, Argentina has solidified its slow steps into legal gambling by announcing that Codere, one of Latin America’s largest and leading gambling companies, has completed the first step in getting a license to operate online gambling in Buenos Aires. This announcement came courtesy of the Buenos Aires City Lottery, also known as LOTBA.

Because Argentina has demonstrated great reluctance to legalize gambling, this is just the first step in a multi-layered process which Codere must undertake in order to gain exclusive approval to operate in Buenos Aires. Despite securing approval from LOTBA for its Program for the Implementation of the Online Game Platform, more hurdles remain.

What Else Does Codere Need To Do?

Now that Codere’s extensive Program for the Implementation of the Online Game Platform has been approved by LOTBA, the company must begin steps to realize some of the actions outlined in said program. This will include marketing Codere’s iGaming in Argentina, as well as technological development to make the new platform work seamlessly.

According to a representative from Codere, these steps are already in progress. The initial Program for the Implementation of the Online Game Platform, developed by a number of technology and online representatives for Codere in collaboration with Codere Argentina, was first proposed in May and accepted just this week, indicating this will take time.

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The Casa Rosada in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

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