Betsson Officially Ends Chile Sponsorships After Unprecedented Betting Ban

Posted on: October 12, 2023, 06:46h. 

Last updated on: October 12, 2023, 11:17h.

Betsson, the global gaming operator that has continued to look for ways to dominate the market, is losing one of its Latin American footholds. The Chilean National Professional Football Association (ANFP) announced on Wednesday that it has officially split up with the company after Chile’s recent decision to ban online sports betting.

Betsson branding on a soccer field for Chile's First Division Championship games
Betsson branding on a soccer field for Chile’s First Division Championship games. The sports betting operator is severing its relationship with Chilean soccer following a court order. (Image: Campeonato Chileno)

The gaming operator paid to put its name on Chile’s First Division and First Division B championships, in addition to appearing as one of the main sponsors of the country’s national soccer team, La Roja. That changed a few weeks ago, when the Supreme Court brought an abrupt and unprecedented halt to online sports betting.

What followed was a call by the court for any entity in any type of partnership with gaming operators to bring those relationships to an end. While the ANFP tried to appeal the decision, the courts refused to hear its arguments and the fight came to an end.

How They Got Here

Chile’s Supreme Court decided to block 23 online bookmakers last month, not allowing time for the operators to offer input or debate the issue. The ruling took immediate effect, and any company that still offered its services in the country could face charges.

The 14-page brief the Supreme Court provided only refers to platforms that have sports betting content. However, it set a precedent that has allowed Chile to expand the offensive and attack the entire industry.

Betsson joins Betway, a company that announced its separation from five soccer clubs — Audax Italiano, La Calera, Ñublense, Coquimbo Unido, and Everton. Betway was the first operator to comply with the court order, according to local media.

Following the ruling, the Ministry of Justice pressured the ANFP to cancel the sponsorship contracts. It threatened to sanction or strip the organization of its legal charter if it didn’t comply within 30 business days. The court’s denial to hear its appeal left the ANFP with no choice but to comply.

Betsson paid $2.5 million to retain the naming rights to the First Division National Championship, in addition to other considerations for having an expanded presence in Chilean soccer. The company hasn’t indicated what economic ramifications the breakup will have.

It’s possible the operator will try to make the transition easy for the ANFP. When Betway announced its departure, it agreed to comply with the terms of its contracts through the end of the current season.

As such, those clubs didn’t suffer an immediate impact, and Betsson might take the same stance. The company didn’t respond to a request for comment before publication.

Writing On the Wall

While the Supreme Court decision came as a surprise, the gaming industry and the ANFP had a few hints that this might eventually happen. In 2021, the Dreams casino group sued Betsson, accusing it of operating illegally in the country.

That lawsuit led to others, as well as orchestrated demonstrations by casino workers across the country. This kept the iGaming operators in the spotlight for the wrong reasons, and could have helped influence the court’s direction.

Chile’s gaming regulator, the Superintendence of Gaming Casinos (SCJ, for its Spanish acronym), was aware of what might happen in 2021, as well. Chilean media outlet Interferencia reported a year ago that the SCJ informed the ANFP that it should reconsider teaming up with online sportsbooks.

In a letter the regulator sent to Pablo Milad, the president of the soccer organization, it warned that entering advertising partnerships with the books could be illegal. Because the AFNP doesn’t fall under the SCJ’s authority, it ignored the warning. The result of that is the dilemma Chilean sports faces today.