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Puerto Rico – Agreement reached over Sports Betting Bill

By - 28 June 2019

Despite fears that sports betting legislation could be delayed the members of the House of Representatives have reached consensus over how sports betting should be regulated. The purpose of the legal initiative is to establish the “Law of the Gaming Commission of the Government of Puerto Rico” and puts in place new policies regarding betting on sporting events, eSports and fantasy sports. The new law allows for based sports betting as well as online sports betting but will not permit bets on amateur sports.

Agreement was reached after more than two months of negotiations, after two commissions of the House of Representatives reached an agreement on the project.

One of the main differences between the representatives of majority party Néstor Alonso Vega and Representative Antonio Soto revolved around where sports betting would be allowed. Last week Soto said that sports betting legislation could be delayed as he objected to how the measures could have allowed, for a betting centre in each location where there is an electronic lottery terminal or in any “grocery store”, The language of the bill “opens the door to thousands of betting places on the island,” he said.

Néstor Alonso Vega, who had been charged by the executive to draft the new law, presented the latest draft to the Plenary this week. According to Vega regulation was vital in order to regulate an industry which is growing rapidly in popularity via a newly established Gaming Commission. The newly regulated industry will create jobs and provide a boost to the local economy he said.
However language of the bill was amended so that while permits may be given to types businesses not specifically mentioned in the bill the gaming board will only be allowed to authorise licences to premises that have a business plan in place and meet with local health and safety requirements. It also includes language that will prevent the new commission from authorising licences to entire sectors at once such as grocery stores and gas stations. At the same time it also provides that no point of sale may be located less than 100 meters from a school, religious centre or public or private rehabilitation facility for addicts.

No specific cost for licences have been set as this will be left to the gaming commission to decide but the new measures establishes a minimum license fee for large scale sports betting operations at US$50,000, but this stands at just US$2,500 for individual sports betting points of sale. The law establishes a tax of 7 per cent on income on bets made via land based facilities and 12 per cent online.

The new Gaming Commission will provide an institutional structure for already existing groups which oversee gambling in Puerto Rico including the Horse Racing Industry Administration as well as the Gaming Division of the Tourism Office of the Department of Economic Development. The new commission will be headed by a commissioner appointed for a term of 10 years and a board of seven members, including three from the private sector. This board, in turn, will also be helped by an advisory board made up of seven members.

In April the governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rosselló, announced that he would put forward a project before the Legislature aimed at authorising online and land based sports betting. Illegal sports betting is widespread and Puerto Ricans like to gamble especially on American sports particularly on the NBA. According to local reports, a small illegal betting centre can receive up to US$5,000 per day in bets while a larger operation can often take in around US$20,000 per day.

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