Sports Betting: A Back Door For iGaming In Argentina?

This week, it was revealed that Buenos Aires’s Casino de Puerto Madero is in talks to receive a license to operate sports betting, including online options. This would be a landmark shift for Buenos Aires, Argentina’s capital province, which typically sets the trends for the rest of the nation. The announcement of Casino de Puerto Madero’s potential new license comes just a short time after another set of companies announced plans to operate legal online gambling in Argentina.

Many bank notes lie inside a washing machine, a pun for money laundering.

Plans to grant a license for sports betting at the Casino de Puerto Madero may be foiled by the money laundering and corruption of its former owner, Cristóbal López. ©klimkin/Pixabay

The Confusing Road To Legal Gambling In Argentina

The last year has seen a consistent back-and-forth on the topic of legal gambling in Argentina. In 2019, both Buenos Aires and Argentina were governed by conservative leadership, which tends to view gambling with more lenience than their progressive counterparts.

In August and October of 2019, however, the conservative government was voted out in an election upset in favor of the leftist party. As such, both the Governor of Buenos Aires and the President of Argentina were replaced with much more progressive politicians. Since the election, Argentina’s economy has faltered significantly, even before COVID-19.

In the intervening months between the October elections and today, Argentina’s government has steadily shifted from an open stance toward gambling to a much more closed one. At last year’s SAGSE convention, officials from Buenos Aires announced, for one example, the forced closure of almost 1,300 private lottery businesses.

Since then, discussion about legal gambling in Argentina has all but ground to a halt, surely not in the least helped earlier this summer when a court in Buenos Aires determined that brick-and-mortar casinos were ineligible to apply for licenses to shift to offer online gambling after months of forced closures.

Sending Mixed Messages: Now, Warming To iGaming

After close to a year of what seemed to be a stern crackdown on gambling, Argentina’s government seems to have quietly reversed its position, allowing now two different businesses to operate online gambling through unspoken loopholes. The first such contract to be signed was announced just last week in a deal between Grupo Slots and GiG.

Grupo Slots And GiG

In the deal between Grupo Slots and GiG, or Gaming Innovation Group, San Luis-based gambling and entertainment provider Grupo Slots was given access to provide online options through GiG, a tech developer best known for its online gaming platform. Grupo Slots is comparable to UK-based gambling provider BetFred, with locations nationwide.

This deal was not announced as a watershed moment for legal online gambling in Argentina, and not much was made of the fact that it flew in the face of a court decision made only a short number of weeks before which effectively stopped further discussion of legal online gambling in the nation in its tracks.

The partnership between Grupo Slots and GiG will be finalised at the end of the third fiscal quarter in 2020, meaning after this time, Grupo Slots fans will be able to access online gambling content via the GiG online gaming platform this year. After this, the partnership will be effective for at least four years.

Casino de Puerto Madero’s New License

The newest company to have access to legal online gambling in Buenos Aires is the Casino de Puerto Madero, which will shortly be issued a license to operate sports betting in the country. According to reports, this new license means that the Casino de Puerto Madero could also be able to operate its sportsbook online.

Analysts reporting this news speculate that the move is to help the Casino de Puerto Madero make up for some of the tremendous amounts of funds lost during the forced closures earlier this year. As such, this suggests that government officials are creating a sort of backdoor option into online gambling for the casino.

According to the court decision made earlier this summer, casinos which had been closed during COVID-19 lockdowns specifically could not get licenses to operate online to recuperate their losses. This new deal with the Casino de Puerto Madero indicates that other officials are finding alternate solutions to help their friends in the gambling industry.

A Partnership With A Controversial Figure

More discussed in news about the possibility of Casino de Puerto Madero’s new license is a controversial figure who has been involved in the proceedings. The former owner of Casino de Puerto Madero is Cristóbal López, who has been tied to charges of money laundering, collusion, and corruption in both Argentina and neighboring Brazil.

In fact, López even served jail time with his collaborator, Fabián De Sousa, following charges that their company, Grupo Indalo, had been corrupt, engaging in money laundering. The two were released on bail, totalling 120 million pesos, in the summer of 2019.

Because of López’s affiliation with the Casino de Puerto Madero, some government officials from the governing party of Buenos Aires, the Juntos for el Cambio, are pushing to add extra rules onto the new bill to ensure that López will not be involved with the Casino de Puerto Madero and/or its new online operations.

More Sportsbook Licenses To Come

According to reports about the Casino de Puerto Madero license, six other casinos have filed requests to receive licenses to operate in Argentina’s capital city. Based on the developments of the last two weeks alone, it seems quite likely that these businesses will be granted their requests.

While it’s surprising that Argentina’s government has so quickly changed its tune, they’re wise to do so: some estimates speculate that Buenos Aires could recoup close to $7 million in taxes with a legal and regulated sports betting market. For a city devastated by recession followed by the pandemic, this would be a massive help.

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A jockey rides a race horse at the Hipódromo de San Isidro in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

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