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Puerto Rico – Outgoing Puerto Rico Governor signs new sports betting bill

By - 30 July 2019

In one of his last acts before he resigned, governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rosselló, has announced that he has signed new sports betting rules into law meaning that betting on sporting events, eSports and fantasy sports are now all legal.

Mr. Rosselló said: “With the signing of this law, we are preparing to witness the potential of making Puerto Rico a state of the art jurisdiction, while benefiting the local economy.”

According to Rosselló, the liberalisation of the market – which includes allowing online bets that originate in Puerto Rico – will help the island to be marketed locally and internationally as an attractive destination for betting on sporting events.

The legislative project also creates a new Betting Commission. The seven member commission will be made up of both public and private sector and will be the government entity responsible for regulating sports betting, horse racing eSports and casino gambling.

The Horse Racing Industry Administration as well as the Gaming Division, currently both of which come under the sphere of the Puerto Rico Tourism Company, will become part of the new commission and no public employee will be laid off as part of this reorganisation, Mr. Rosselló said. 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.

The legislation also provides safeguards that guarantee that those under 18 years old will not be allowed to take part in sports betting. Similarly, other player protection measure are covered in the new bill which will seeks to combat gambling addiction as well as money laundering and tax evasion.

Bets may be placed at any place authorised by the Commission, such as casinos, racetracks, hotels and hostels, amongst other locations. The governor explained that a rate of seven per cent has been put in place in the case of physical bets and twelve per cent when it comes to bets placed online. According to Mr. Rosselló, these charges and taxes seek to be highly competitive compared to other jurisdictions, with a view to making the island attractive to potential operators.
The governor first announced that the government would be changing its gaming laws in April. Mr. Rosselló said that a study carried out by the government showed that the newly regulated industry could bring in between US$44m and US$66m per year. Kenneth Rivera, President of the Chamber of Commerce, said at a press conference at the time that another study commissioned by the entity showed that sports betting could bring in between US$29m and US$87m per year.

Mr. Rosselló resigned following a fortnight of protests on the island following a leaked text messages involving homophobic and sexist jokes. He will be replaced by his justice secretary, Wanda Vázquez, a former prosecutor who headed the US territory’s office of women’s affairs

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