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Mexico – President bans slots

By - 20 November 2023

The government of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has banned slots in casinos and other gambling facilities. 

With a decree signed by the President and published last Thursday (16 November), the Regulations of the Federal Law on Games and Sweepstakes have been reformed so that “number or symbol draws through machines” namely slots are now banned starting last week.

However the reform will not be retroactive, so casinos will still be able to use them for the time remaining on their permits. These licenses can only have a maximum validity of 15 years. Once this time passes licenses won’t be eligible for renewal or extension. Those licenses which have been granted but have not been acted upon are now cancelled.

In addition no new casino licenses will be allowed while licenses for betting centres including those at racetracks, greyhound tracks and remote betting centres will only have permission to operate for a maximum of 15 years.

The decree also prohibits Mexican gaming firms from partnering with third-party companies and also prohibits bets with cards or similar games, as well as craps and roulette.

In September the Ministry of the Interior (Segob) published a draft reform to Mexico’s gaming laws that called for the ban on slot machines. The draft reform would specifically ban ‘draws of numbers or symbols through machines.’ According to the Federal Government, gambling via slot machines is not permitted by current regulations, which have been in force since 1947.

To justify the measure, the government argues that these machines are not permitted under the 1947 act which only authorizes dominoes, chess, checkers, bowling, billiards, dice, bowling and raffles – and that Congress has not made changes to the bill since 1947.

In 2005 President Vicente Fox tried to overturn the act but managed only to insert an amendment in the form of an appendix to the old law. However the changes to the law were highly significant as they allowed for sports betting, as well as the opening of bingo halls and slot parlours nationwide. SEGOB was given responsibility for the granting of licenses for these betting facilities.

In January 2016 Mexico’s Supreme Court of Justice endorsed the use of slot machines in casinos. In its ruling the court declared that those playing slot machines were taking part in sweepstakes and the outcome did not depend on skill unlike card games which are defined as gambling under Mexican gaming law.

The Mexican president has reiterated his anti gambling stance many times. In November 2020 Obrador asked the Secretary of Home Affairs to carry out an investigation into whether gambling licences had been issued unlawfully under previous administrations. The President said there were question marks over some of the licences issued under President Vicente Fox’s administration saying the processes to award them had been ‘inadequate.’

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