A Cultural Attitudinal Shift on Online Gambling in Latin America

By | 03 January, 2019

Even though online gambling is only starting to gain popularity in certain parts of Latin America, its culture has been a part of online slot games available in other regions for a while through various Amazonian, Aztec and Mexican-themed slot games. But since the early 2000’s more and more Latin American citizens are discovering the delights of online casinos. Whilst some nations are more than happy to see the change brought by the online gambling industry can make to their economy, other nations are apprehensive when it comes to allowing the regulations to promote online gambling.

Colombia made the first leap into online gambling and was the first South American nation to legally allow online gambling after passing the legislation back in 2016. While the other nations may have looked on in dismay, the predictions made by gambling experts that there would be a strong demand for online casinos turned out to be correct. In the first nine months of 2018, online casinos generated nearly COP23b ($7.4m). With such a boost to the economy, it is likely that many more nations will be following suit once they have reviewed the economic and socio-economic impact of the legislation change. The newly formed gambling brand Aquila invested $4.9m in the gaming services, and it has already exceeded the target of collecting a share in the predicted $8 billion market. Along with the added revenue the company expects to bring to the economy over the next three years, they also hope to create 3,000 more jobs.

The Changing Landscapes of Latin American Gambling

Latin American nations have always had a rich gambling history, but the nature of the gambling was different to what you would see in gambling cities in North America and China. There was a heavy focus on the social aspect of gambling, gamblers would even report that the staff were like family and the casino felt like their second home. There were plenty of ways in which gamblers could partake in the pastime in some form or another, even if the laws and legislation were outdated and set by old-time standards. Most of the laws were set during the colonial rule and ruling bodies have been apprehensive to rehash the regulations – despite the best efforts of those with a stake in the industry. But now, the gambling industry in Latin America must prepare to cater to the tastes of the millennials who are more technologically-focused. And this is where the role of the online casinos come in.

Access to land-based casinos may be limited for residents, but the continent’s relationship with online gambling is currently just as complex. At Present, Colombia is the only country in Latin America who will allow their citizens to access foreign gambling bodies such as UK online casino Rose Slots. The flagship game for most online casinos is now online slot machines compared to more complex online games such as Poker, Blackjack and Roulette. The popularity is in part due to how easy the games are to play and how few rules there are to learn before you can play to the best of your ability. Part of the Colombian government’s concern with online gambling previously was ill-educated citizens playing online Poker without the correct skills and entering unfair games. Which is much less likely to happen with online slots. Yet, Colombia has even become liberal enough when it comes to gaming to allow an online gambling expo to visit the country’s capital each year. Their risky move with their laxer laws on gambling are predicted to pay off, experts have predicted that the Colombian market will become more competitive globally.

In Brazil, Land-based gambling is still illegal under legislation which was put into effect in 1941. The Criminal Convention Act (CCA) stated that all games of chance are illegal. Yet, there may be a loophole in the legislation given that the regulations are so outdated, it doesn’t even mention online gambling activities. So, although running an online casino in Brazil would technically be illegal, citizens may be able to play games on foreign online casino websites without violating the CCA. Even though the archaic legislation still stands, that’s not to say that legislators haven’t given up on legalising at least one form of online gambling or another. The most recent proposal was put forward in March 2018 and was sadly rejected, yet, that hasn’t stopped Brazil from forming a market for online gambling. According to recent findings over 100 million Brazilians were found to have logged into online casinos. Alongside the interest in online gambling in Brazil, Poker is also seeing a second boom after citizens have seen footballers such as Ronaldo and Neymar Jr sponsored by PokerStars.

Brazil’s relationship with online gambling may be old fashioned, but Argentina has one of the most complex gambling landscapes of all the Latin American countries. Online and land-based gambling are both legal – much to the Argentine governments dismay. Given that most citizens are proud to declare themselves as avid gamblers, the Argentine government is seemingly powerless to stop them.

Argentina is home to 80 land-based casinos, yet, the players still opt to gamble on online casinos, and from 2006, they didn’t only have the option of using a foreign online casino after the first local online casino opened. Unlike many other nations in Latin America, the online gambling market isn’t a federal concern. There are no federal regulations governing the online casinos, instead the casinos are regulated by the 23 separate provinces of Argentina along with the autonomous area of Buenos Aires.

Gambling laws saw an overhaul in Mexico in 2004, yet, online gambling went unmentioned, meaning that there is still no legislation to regulate the market. In spite of this, the absence of legislation has no negative impact on the market which is currently generating just under $300 million a year. Even though there are Mexican-based online casino sites available to Mexican citizens, they are still opting to use foreign-based sites instead. Yet, this may all too soon become a thing of the part, as the government has now expressed their interest in banning unlicensed foreign operators.

So, whilst some countries have adopted a more liberal view on online gambling, many are still apprehensive, even with the potential revenue which they could be set to receive by amending the laws.


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