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Guatemala – Calls for Congress to enact gambling laws

By - 26 August 2021

Guatemala’s Minister of Economy, Antonio Malouf, has urged Congress to implement Law 4294 on Games of Chance saying that it would bring in foreign investment and provide a boost to the tourist industry.

“Other countries have managed to have a tourist industry and rely on gambling and cities like the well-known Las Vegas,” Malouf said.

Malouf wants Congress to finally regulate gambling so that the country meets with much wider anti-money laundering standards via another bill: Bill 582. The Superintendency of Banks has argued that for Bill 582 to be effective casinos, video lotteries, bingo halls and games of chance must have a regulatory body. This is because casinos have been highlighted as vulnerable to money laundering by The Financial Action Task Force of Latin America (GAFILAT.)  In its Mutual Evaluation Report in 2015 it stated that casinos and video lotteries were especially vulnerable as they were not regulated entities. Casinos were categorised as “high risk” and new gaming regulations, which sought to prevent money-laundering and terrorist financing needed to be monitored closely. In addition GAFILAT stated that there were no measures in place which prevented criminals from owning a gaming establishment.

Legislators voted in favour of Law 4294 as far back as April 2011. In January 2014 the Economic Commission provided its assessment of the law which was then modified further by the Superintendency of Banks. However the bill became stalled in Congress.

Alejandro Giammattei replaced former President Jimmy Morales as Head of State of Guatemala in January 2020, and as part of much wider economic reform he also announced that casino laws would be changed.  In October 2020 the government put forward its anti money laundering bill  arguing that while similar bills were already in place they need to be updated

Although gaming is expressly forbidden by Article 477 of the Penal Code casinos and slot parlours have proliferated widely. In many cases they house table games and can be large scale offering a wide variety of games and can be best described as casinos-video lotteries.  Departmental governors and the Ministry of the Interior for the Republic have authorised them under individual licensing arrangements.

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