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Paraguay – Paraguay’s Gaming Board still pushing for independence

By - 22 October 2019

The Paraguayan gaming board (CONAJZAR) is still pushing to become an independent agency.

The Chamber of Deputies is looking at a bill which would convert the board into the National Directorate of Gambling (DINAJZAR) – an autonomous institution. Today the board comes under the control of the Ministry of Finance. According to head of the institution José Antonio Ortiz Báez, deputies have now turned over the new bill to the commission stage for further review.

Two weeks ago members of the Economic Affairs and Legislation commission held a fact finding meeting with both members of the gaming board and members of the industry. A number of issues will need to be dealt with especially when it comes to how gaming revenue will be divided going forwards. The Department of Social Welfare and Assistance (DIBEN), currently receives 30 per cent of gaming tax revenue. The remaining share is distributed to the departmental governments (30 per cent), the municipal governments (30 per cent) while the remaining (10 per cent) goes to the Treasury.

Changes are necessary because the board does not have its own budget, but monitors the industry and combats illegal gaming through the Treasury. According to the head of the board the municipalities do not transfer what they collect (95 per cent) for the operation of the slots that operate in their areas. In addition a number of slot machines work without permission, he said. “A new law gambling law is merited to order, rank and formalize the sector,” he said.

CONAJZAR has been lobbying for its own independence for some time. The board is struggling to cope with the number of illegal gambling halls. Many slots are present in small businesses and bars in several cities and often near educational institutions as well.

In 2016 CONAJZAR announced that it would increase its efforts to push for a bill that would make it an entirely autonomous body. The aim of the bill is to give CONAJZAR its own legal status, its own budget and full autonomy so that it will no longer be part of the Ministry of Finance. In April 2015, CONAJZAR announced that the bill had already obtained the approval of the Executive branch.

Then head of the gaming commission Javier Balbuena said that the body needed to improve the way it was managed and this could not be achieved unless laws were changed. With less than fifteen people the body is understaffed and its budget is inadequate for state supervision of the gaming industry, Balbuena said at the time. Neither does it have complete legal independence.

Caption: José Antonio Ortiz Báez

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