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Ecuador – President cancels casino referendum

By - 22 January 2024

President Daniel Noboa has cancelled the popular consultation that could have allowed for the return of casinos. Via a message broadcast by his office the government announced that it would not include gambling as part of the proposals.

The return of casinos, slot halls and sports betting had been one of 11 questions that President Daniel Noboa  had wanted Ecuadorians to answer in an upcoming referendum on key issues. The questions had been sent to the Constitutional Court for approval. However the executive has removed question 11 which would have asked Ecuadorians if they were for or against the return of gambling.  

The Ecuadorian president, in a message broadcast by his office, ratified to the Constitutional Court his intention to bring at least ten of these questions on security, justice and employment to a popular consultation.

However, he confirmed that he had withdrawn question eleven on casinos and games of chance, because “he deems that the citizen debate related to this issue is not appropriate at this time.”

According to news agency EFE Noboa’s withdrawal of the question came after he was criticised by a number of lawmakers as they said that the return of casinos could be used by organised crime to launder money.

The president ratified the other questions from the first block of topics that he has proposed for the popular consultation and which are mostly aimed at allowing the Government to “adopt structural measures to address problems such as insecurity.”

The citizen debate must focus on “the recovery of peace, the fight against terrorist groups, the consolidation of the State’s institutions and the generation of employment,” said the president in the letter released by the Communication Secretariat of the Presidency.

Earlier this month Ecuador’s president ordered that criminal gangs be “neutralised” after gunmen stormed and opened fire in a TV studio and inmates executed prison guards. The remaining 136 prison guards and administrative workers who were seized as hostages have been freed. The gangs began their attacks after  Noboa declared a countrywide state of emergency following the escape of Jose Adolfo Macias – leader of Ecuador’s biggest gang. Tensions though remain high. Prosecutor Cesar Suarez investigating the on-air attack on the public television station was shot dead in Guayaquil on Wednesday, while driving, according to Attorney General Diana Salazar.

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