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Mexican judge overturns slot machine ban

By - 10 June 2024

A federal judge has declared unconstitutional the reform by which President Andrés Manuel López Obrador banned new casinos with slot machines. Additionally, he ruled that roulette and card games, which have never been authorized in these establishments, must be allowed.

Gabriel Regis, the Sixteenth District Judge in Administrative Matters, granted the first three injunctions against the changes to The Betting and Raffles Law which dates back to 1947. These changes absolutely prohibit “number raffles,” a euphemism for slot machines, and only authorize them to be maintained in the 444 casinos that were operating at the end of 2023, until their permits expire.

According to the judge, since 2016, the Supreme Court of Justice has clarified that the 1947 law does permit raffles, and this term applies to machines with symbols or numbers, whose results depend on chance rather than the player’s skill.

By granting injunctions to 26 license-holding and casino-operating companies, led by Eventos Festivos de México, Operadora Megawin, and Operadora Lami, the judge – who handles most of the lawsuits on this issue – also argued that prohibiting these machines violates the right to free personal development of those who gamble on them.

The magistrate also ruled in favour of operating roulette and card games in casinos. According to him, the former is entirely based on chance, so it can be considered a “raffle,” while the latter are a mixture of chance and skill. These games have not been permitted in casinos since the passage of the 1947 act.

Furthermore, Regis declared unconstitutional the requirement to obtain a new permit from the Interior Ministry when relocating a casino, and the prohibition of maintaining slot machines when extending existing permits. The government has already appealed the rulings, which currently have no effect.

López Obrador banned slots in casinos and other gambling facilities via a decree in November. If it is put into effect then it could mean that the 444 casinos which currently operate in the country would only allowed to operate slot machines until their operating permits expire. Meanwhile, those 408 casinos which have licenses but are not yet operational would not be able to operate slots at all.

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