Argentina’s Biggest Province Buenos Aires Legalizes Online Gaming but Soccer Wants a Cut

Posted on: April 3, 2019, 08:00h. 

Last updated on: April 3, 2019, 08:00h.

The Argentine province of Buenos Aires — the country’s largest jurisdiction and home to the namesake capital city — has enacted a regulatory decree to legalize online gambling.

Buenos Aires
Argentina’s President Mauricio Macri and Buenos Aires Governor María Vidal. As the country stands on the brink of another economic crisis, Vidal believes online gaming will provide much-needed funding for social programs. (Image: Infobae)

Decree 181 was signed by the province’s popular governor María Eugenia Vidal on Monday, establishing a framework of regulation for online casino games, sports betting, poker and betting on horse racing.

With 16.66 million people, the province has the population of a medium-sized Latin American country on its own and represents an opportunity for international operators to gain a foothold in an emerging market with huge growth potential.

Argentina’s 24 provinces formulate their own gambling laws individually and have been free to regulated online gambling within their own borders since 2006 — although only a handful have done so. If regulation is successful in Buenos Aires, other provinces will be likely to follow by example.

The country’s residents are targeted by the offshore market and some provinces — including Buenos Aires — practice ISP-blocking. A 2016 federal amendment made operating unlicensed online gaming a federal crime punishable by up to six years in prison.

Another Economic Crisis?

Vidal, a 45-year-old mother of three — along with the former Buenos Aires City Mayor and now president of the country, Mauricio Macri — have been credited with improving the province’s fortunes since the Argentine financial crisis of 1998 to 2002 left its economy in tatters.

But now, with inflation rising and the value of the peso tumbling, the country stands on the brink of another financial meltdown, and Vidal believes taxes from online gaming will provide crucial funding for social programs that would be otherwise neglected.

Initially up to seven remote gaming licenses will be made available and operators will be taxed at 25 percent of gross gaming revenue — significantly higher than the 15 percent first mooted under original legislation published last year.

Superliga Wants In

But Argentine soccer also wants a piece of the pie. Last week, the sport’s governing body, AFA, and top pro league, Superliga, appealed to Macri to suspend the motion. Macri was once the president of Buenos Aires-based Boca Juniors, Argentina’s most successful soccer team.

Nicolás Russo, President of Lanús FC and a member of the AFA’s executive committee, said his organization was not against online gaming regulation but believes it deserves a cut.

“We won’t rule out taking forceful measures,” he said. “It is not serious or fair to have betting on football matches and not pay the clubs a peso. Nobody consulted us about anything…we should be allowed to make a presentation to those who are driving reforms.”