Argentina – Future of online gambling in doubt in Buenos AiresBy Phil - 16 September 2019
The Governor of Buenos Aires, María Eugenia Vidal has put the tender for the online gambling licences on stand by while she seeks re-election. Vidal lost the primary race to Axel Kicillof by almost 17-percent margin in August.
Vidal is an ally of President Mauricio Macri, who was also unexpectedly defeated in primary elections, as voters vented their frustration over austerity measures, the country’s deep recession and soaring inflation at the polls.
Leftist candidate Kicillof previously served as minister of the economy under Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who announced in May last year that she would run as vice president alongside Alberto Fernández. So far Kicillof has remained tight lipped on the issue of the new licences. However, according to a report in local daily La Política Online the governor will leave the tender for online gambling until after the election is decided.
In order to raise money Vidal, who has on many occasions expressed her opposition to gambling on moral grounds, pushed through online gaming laws earlier this year. A total of 14 companies were scheduled to contend for the seven online gambling licenses for the province of Buenos Aires. Crucially international interest has been high with a number of well known international companies teaming up with local companies in order to make a bid.
However, Vidal will need to tread lightly on the issue as the church has outlined its concerns over the rapid expansion of gambling in the province of Buenos Aires. In July the Argentine Episcopal Commission via a statement expressed their unhappiness at the way that the number of casinos, bingo halls and slot machines have proliferated even in the vicinity of poor neighbourhoods. The organisation criticised the increase of lottery betting as well and pointed out that online gambling laws had already been passed in the province.
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. The government has historically been opposed to opening up the online gaming industry but needs to raise additional income in the face of another economic crisis.