Is Online Gambling Legal in Mexico?

By | 20 October, 2017

Mexico or the United Mexican States is a North American federal republic. It is the 5th largest country in the Americas and the 15th largest independent country in the world with a population of approximately 120 million. It is the fastest growing online gaming market in the world, valued at around USD $300 million per annum.

Mexico has always had an affiliation with gambling, however, after the Mexican Revolution in 1911 and several decades of driving out the French colonists; the country saw the closing of casinos. When President Cardenas took office in 1935, he then officially made certain types of gambling illegal. The Catholic Church then seized on the initiative and by 1947 all forms of gambling were covered by the legislation.

However, these laws were not upheld, which then resulted in sports betting and lotteries being common place throughout society. This went on for a number of decades, until in 2004 the government finally admitted that the current laws were totally ineffective. This admission led to the laws being relaxed, with the country’s gambling being the responsibility of the Ministry of the Interior.

In the weeks following the changes to the legislation, the government issued a record number of gaming licenses; which actually surpassed the total amount for the last 80 odd years!

It was at this time that online gambling was emerging in Mexico, and the government did grant a few online licenses. The official state of play was that there were a number of restrictions placed on locals visiting casinos, but one must stress that Mexicans were not banned from the casinos, unless they were under 21 years old or intoxicated. With regards to online gambling, locals were not permitted whilst foreign players were welcome. But, the interesting fact was that online casinos and sports betting operators based in other countries were not blocked from providing their gaming services to Mexicans! This then resulted in hundreds of online gaming sites targeting Mexicans, with some sites even offering a localised service to maximise their returns.

There are rumours that the Mexican authorities plan to block online transactions to online gambling sites, which would effectively block unlicensed operators; but is yet to be confirmed.

So depending on one’s point of view, online gambling could be seen as legal or illegal, which is a very similar situation to the USA. The problem originally stems from the original Gaming Law being an overly general statute that really needed additional legislation to address the specific details on gaming and gambling. There was an attempt for this to be addressed in 2004, and the regulations have been further amended in 2012 and 2013; in an effort to clarify issues regarding the use of slot machines and skill based electronic games.

However, there is more legislative work required by the government; especially when it comes to online gambling. This fact is emphasised by the distinct lack of a legal definition of what online gaming actually is in Mexican law!

A new online gambling law was proposed in 2014, designed to resolve a lot of uncertainty within the online gambling industry. It was then postponed to 2015, and now there are real expectations that nothing will be done before 2018.

In the meantime, online gambling continues to grow and gain a dominant role in Mexican society and their economy. It has been confirmed that tax revenues from gambling contributes significantly to the Government purse, with gambling directly employing over 35,000 locals and an additional 105,000 people indirectly.

Therefore, one would argue that in light of what has been the norm for years together with the growing statistics in terms of operators, revenue, tax contributions and local jobs being created; gambling and more specifically online gambling is legal and here to stay.


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