Puerto Rico Gaming Regulator Sports Betting Lawsuit Dismissed

Posted on: November 20, 2023, 06:47h. 

Last updated on: November 20, 2023, 12:08h.

Puerto Rico’s sports betting market is heating up and the expansion isn’t without its growing pains. A lawsuit against the Puerto Rico Gaming Commission (PRGC) challenged its registration policies, but didn’t go as the plaintiff had hoped.

Casino Metro in San Juan, Puerto Rico behind palm trees
Casino Metro in San Juan, Puerto Rico behind palm trees. The casino was the center of a lawsuit regarding sports betting regulations in Puerto Rico. (Image: Casino Metro)

A judge dismissed a lawsuit last week against the gaming regulator by The Stadium LLC. That complaint  alleged that there was unequal and unfair treatment among sports betting operators. The controversy is one of the first to reach the courts on the topic of sports betting.

Land-based and online sports betting are now legal in Puerto Rico, but in-person registration is still a requirement. The Stadium believes the PRGC may have gone out of bounds in its interpretation of the rules.

No Level Playing Field

The sports betting legislation was written over a decade ago. It carried the in-person registration requirement as a means to ensure only those 18 years old or older could wager.

In September 2013, the PRGC issued an order granting itself the power to have the final say on whether a place qualifies for player registration. It even gave itself the power to authorize “temporary registration points.” This concept, according to the lawsuit, doesn’t exist in the law.

The Stadium, which owns the WinIn brand, alleges that licensed operators like them never received a copy of the order, which ultimately gave Casino Metro an unfair advantage. It complains that the casino set up temporary player registration kiosks at its Coliseo de Puerto Rico property during the exhibition match between Monica Puig and Venus Williams, and operated them at other events.

The Stadium has asserted that it only learned of the order a few weeks later. It met with the regulator’s attorneys to complain about Casino Metro’s supposedly illegal action. In response, the PRGC gave it a copy of the policy approving the use of temporary kiosks.

Unhappy with the situation, The Stadium then took its complaint to the courts. It argued that the gaming regulator erroneously altered the sports betting legislation to allow registrations at satellite locations.

WinIn operates two sportsbooks in Puerto Rico, including one at San Patricio Plaza and another at Avenida Jesús T. Piñero. In challenging the PRGC’s unilateral modification of the legislation, The Stadium asked the court to reverse all registrations that Casino Metro had made outside of its primary casino.

No Legal Recourse

The judge who heard the lawsuit didn’t agree with The Stadium’s position. The PRGC and the Puerto Rico Hotel and Tourism Association, as an intervening party, requested a dismissal of the suit, which he granted.

In his ruling, which was handed down last week, the judge said that The Stadium had not been able to establish the damages it suffered from this practice. He emphasized that demonstrating harm, financially or otherwise, is a requirement of injunction requests like this one, in which an order is sought to prohibit a practice.

The judge added that The Stadium misinterpreted the law because it details the operation of satellite locations where operators could register players. He said that Casino Metro didn’t gain an unfair advantage, since any operator can take advantage of the PRGC’s policies. As long as the property has a betting license, it can accept registrations.

The Stadium had also expected to receive compensation for economic losses through the lawsuit. This didn’t work out either, since the judge ruled that the company had provided “speculative” gains.