Chile – Lower House approves amendments to extend municipal licencesBy Phil - 16 March 2015
With 77 votes in favour and six abstentions, the Chilean Chamber of Deputies has approved a number of significant amendments to Chile’s gaming laws including the extension of municipal licences for a further two years.
The decision was made after a report was submitted by the Finance Minister Alberto Arenas who called on parliamentarians to approve the new initiative as soon as possible given their importance to the communities where they are located as casinos are major source of funding locally.
The text of the new bill will now be put forward to the Senate for approval.
Head of the campaign to extend the casino licences and Mayor of Viña del Mar, Virginia Reginato, said before the vote: “We are confident that everything will be fine, but we will not rest until it is law. Today more than ever we must be united by this noble and just cause to defend what is ours. For many years the mayors and councillors of the seven communes have fought and done our work in defence of our casinos and our communities.” She added that “now it is up to parliament to avoid the huge tragedy that would encroach on more than one third of municipal budgets, and affect more than one million people living in these seven cities.”
The Head of the Chilean Casinos Baord (SJC), Renato Hamel, welcomed the fact that the bill received such a high number of votes in its favour adding that the bill also grants the board new powers which would mean that the gaming board would need to be ready for a number of new challenges as the gaming landscape changes.
“This bill ends the uncertainty for the seven communes with municipal casinos. The initiative of President Bachelet, responds to the desire of these major cities of the country that have historically had a casino, and have provided a significant contribution not only to the municipal budget, but also to tourism in each (municipality) and which saw its continuity threatened,” he said.
Hamel said that once the initiative is approved that the SJC “will have large and complex challenges ahead as we implement this new law taking charge of the new powers granted to us with a larger industry, new operators and increased competition. We will make regulatory changes, driving new processes forward for the granting of operating permits, for the supervision and the construction of new facilities and we will assume a new supervisory burden.”
The initiative extends the municipal casino licences until December 2017 in Arica, Iquique, Coquimbo, Viña del Mar, Pucon, Puerto Varas and Puerto Natales. The project also improves the regulation of the industry, as it changes the tender process, and gives the SJC more powers when it comes to vetting potential operates in the future as well as refining the powers of the SJC over the industry.
The issue of the municipal casinos had become increasingly urgent of late with local lawmakers concerned that they will soon lose out on millions of dollars of tax revenue from casinos located within their jurisdictions.