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Puerto Rico – Sports betting bill could be delayed

By - 26 June 2019

A bill that should authorise sports betting in Puerto Rico is now in danger of being delayed until the next legislative session, according to Representative Antonio Soto. The legislator outlined his objection to language in House Bill 2038 which was put forward by fellow representative Néstor Alonso Vega and is being pushed forward by the Executive branch.

“My wish is that this project can be considered in this legislative session, but differences in language have to be addressed. I do not want that, since the measure is drafted, the Commission (of Betting) can authorise or pre-authorise the existence of sports betting centres in all businesses in Puerto Rico. It is such broad language that it is detrimental, it is not beneficial for Puerto Rico and it would affect income projections, “Soto told the local newspaper El Nuevo Día

The President of the Finance Commission, which is handling the new law referred to how the measure authorises sports betting in racetracks, casinos, horse betting shops, shopping centres, hostels, hotels and “any other place that the Commission determines.” According to Soto, the phrasing of the new bill could allow, for a betting centre in each location where there is an electronic lottery terminal or in any “grocery store”, without taking into account its economic viability or safety measures in place. The language of the bill “opens the door to thousands of betting places on the island,” he said.

Soto is proposing a series of amendments to the new betting bill so that it would put in place certain requirements. Requests for a sports betting licence would be addressed individually, which would avoid a huge increase in the number of licences at the same time as would be the case for pharmacies and all grocery stores if current language is approved. Language would also be included in the new draft which would impose a set distance between sports betting shops and educational facilities and churches. In addition the new measures establishes a license fee for large scale sports betting operations of US$50,000, but this would be reduced to just US$5,000 for smaller facilities.

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. The new measures were first initiated by Representative Nelson Alonso Vega, who has been put in charge of drafting the new bill. 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.

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