In an unexpected move, Governor María Eugenia Vidal’s could be looking to allow online gambling in the province in order to raise taxes.
According to local daily Perfil, the government’s new Budget Bill for 2019, which has already been sent to the Buenos Aires Senate for approval, would allow for seven online gambling licences. According to government estimates, a newly regulated online gaming sector could generate about $2,500 million annually (about US$70m) for the government of the province of Buenos Aires.
Under current plans, the government is considering a 15 per cent tax on gross income (including fees). The government would launch the tender for the seven licenses that will include sports betting, horse racing, casino games and betting on the outcome of other live events. While priority will be given to local companies, foreign companies may also take part in the tender but they would need to set up operations in the capital city of Buenos Aires province La Plata.
It is a historic move as it would be the first time that online gambling would be allowed in Buenos Aires province. It also comes as a surprise given Governor Vidal’s repeated objection to gambling on principle and her opposition to any gambling expansion.
In Argentina, online gaming has been permitted since 2006 but only on a province-to-province basis and there is no national law in place, which regulates online gaming. A very small number of licences have been issued and only locally authorised online sites may offer their service in the province where they operate. Crucially, online betting is not licensed in the capital of Argentina or in the province of Buenos Aires. In the past, a small number of sites offering their services to players in Buenos Aires have been threatened with court action.
However, the government is looking at ways to raise extra cash and make up for budget cuts as the government, led by President Mauricio Macri, seeks to meet requirements set out by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Gambling as a way to raise additional funds is now squarely in the spotlight. Vidal and the mayor of Buenos Aires Horacio Rodríguez Larreta will officially announce new gambling taxes this week. The new tax will be imposed on slot machines in both the city limits and the province of Buenos Aires. Gambling establishments will withhold the tax, which will vary between 2 and 5 per cent. According to local sources, this could create a further windfall of $2,000 million for the City and $5,000,000 for the Buenos Aires province.