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Uruguay – New Uruguayan gaming bill set for approval

By - 24 February 2016

The Uruguayan Finance Committee in the House of Representatives is set to approve a major new gaming law.

It aims to establish a ‘comprehensive framework’ bringing major changes in how the industry is regulated and organised by the state in the future.

The bill also reinforces the state monopoly over casinos, horse racing, lotteries and sports betting as well as online gaming. In addition the new bill will create a new office which will be responsible for monitoring the industry and for enforcing bans as well as imposing fines and sanctions on those found to be breaking the law.

According to the draft of the new law it will “reorganise the institutions and clearly distinguish the regulatory function, control and supervision over the direct operation of gaming by the state.”

If passed the new law will put an end to many years of stalemate when it comes to gaming. During the first Vázquez administration (2005-2010), the Executive sent a bill to parliament banning slot machines in shops and established a restrictive policy on gambling. This project became stalled in the legislature. Then the administration of José Mujica (2010-2015) put forward regulation which would allow slots in neighbourhood shops with three slot machines being permitted per establishment with provisions in place that they could not be in close proximity to school, colleges and sports centres. However this bill failed to gather enough support.

Crucially, the bill seeks to put an end to the controversy over the legality of slot machines in unauthorised establishments. According to official data, throughout the country there are approximately 20,000 slots located in shops, bars, kiosks and sports clubs. On average per month each of these machines collect between US$15,000 and US$20,000 and do not pay taxes. The rise in illegal gambling has meant that the new law has for the first time gained a wide level of consensus amongst lawmakers who have become increasingly concerned over the spread of illegal gaming. In addition it could have wide ranging consequences for the online sector as the bill also states that all online gambling which is not run and administered by the state, will be banned.

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