Online Gambling Opposition in Cordoba, Argentina, Loses Round 1 of Fight

Posted on: June 30, 2022, 07:31h. 

Last updated on: June 30, 2022, 10:29h.

The Argentine province of Cordoba wants to introduce online gambling just like other provinces, but is facing resistance from within the political ranks. A judge rejected the opposition’s attempt to block the effort. But the fight is far from over.

Civic Center in Cordoba, Argentina
The Civic Center in Cordoba, Argentina. The province wants to bring in online gambling, but political resistance is high. (Image: Pinterest)

A judge dismissed the judicial presentation 11 opposition councilors made when they requested that he stop online gambling in the capital of the province of Cordoba. They argued that that the measure violated standing legislation and that it overstepped legal authority.

The judge didn’t see it that way. In rejecting the proposal, he clarified that in case the Municipality of Cordoba (not the councilors) wants to prevent sports betting and gambling on the internet in the capital, it should be the mayor of the city, Martín Llaryora, who initiates the process. Of course, the councilors will appeal the rejection, but this is only one fight Cordoba is facing as it tries to introduce online gambling.

Political Infighting Continues

The provincial legislature approved online gambling in December of last year. Councilors from all opposition parties signed on to try to stop the advance of online gambling. This raises the question of whether the initiative was purely motivated by political agendas.

However, the judge also recognized that the opposition may have grounds to block the initiative. To do so, it will need to take a different approach. He pointed out that there are two conflicting legislative measures, one provincial and one municipal. As a result, the councilors could seek an injunction based on that conflict, but not on the claim that the approval was invalid.

Juan Pablo Quinteros of political group Encuentro Vecinal Córdoba (Cordoba Neighborhood Meeting) announced that the group will present a new resource to start the path of appeal. The group is the main opponent of the implementation of online gambling in the capital of Cordoba. In addition, a lawyer representing the councilors, César Orgaz, said they are also considering asking the judge to recuse himself over his ruling.

Tender Still in Progress

In May, the Cordoba Lottery, the province’s gambling regulator, opened the call for national and international public tenders. It initially wants to grant up to 10 licenses, but has the ability to add 10 more in the future. Because the tender process is underway, the opposition wants a court to approve its appeal as quickly as possible.

The tender schedule has already gone through several delays. The date for the submission of tenders is August 5. The pre-selection of operators will be on August 19, a month later than expected.

Finally, on September 2, Cordoba will announce the chosen operators. They will be able to receive their concessions as of October 18.

More Legal Wrangling Appears

The ability to maintain that time line will depend on how the courts respond to the appeal. It will also depend on the course another legal battle takes. A new judicial obstacle is added that seeks to hinder the arrival of online gambling in Córdoba. The Entertainment and Tourism Company (CET, for its Spanish acronym) has filed a lawsuit against the Cordoba Lottery.

The CET has an exclusivity contract with the Lottery for the exploitation of games of chance in the province. As such, its tender process violates the contract, the group claims.

Local media outlet La Voz del Interior reports that CET is demanding that the Lottery give it exclusivity for online gambling. It also wants to toss the need for a tender. The company tried to resolve its grievances through administrative channels and failed. Therefore, its claim is now in court.

The government calls the claim baseless. It asserts that CET cannot claim exclusivity for something that didn’t exist when they signed the contract. The agreement, it argues, limits CET’s activity to slot machines in physical properties.

CET disagrees, and says it can prove it. It received its contract two decades ago, and the language specifically mentions that it can expand its operations when other forms of gambling come available, “such as the internet.”