As the mysterious delay in issuing licences to the eight selected online gambling operators in the province of Córdoba continues, the eponymous capital city of Córdoba has again publicly declared that online gambling will not be allowed within its city limits.
How city officials will enforce that prohibition is uncertain, but the standoff could pose a huge problem for the province's online gambling industry, as some 1.3m people of the province's population of 3.5m live in the city.
The jurisdictional conflict became clearer in October, when the province's eight pre-approved online gambling licencees were meant to be officially licensed. The deadline set by a tender process for execution of concession contracts was the 27th of the month.
As that deadline came and went, the government regulator, Lotería de Córdoba, announced that it was delayed due to administrative errors, but that the publication of official documents was imminent.
The only revelation that licensing was moving forward since then was a press release from Betsson in February, announcing that it had officially received its licence alongside local partner Casino de Victoria.
Publication in the province’s official gazette of contract specifications for online gambling followed in March.
Back in November, during the same week that the regulator said delays were due to administrative errors, Córdoba city councillor and well known gambling opponent Juan Pablo Quinteros filed a formal request for legal action to prevent the launch of online gambling within the city limits.
At the time, Quinteros invoked City Ordinance 11684, which regulates public entertainment. Article 29 of that ordinance reads: “In any place where a public entertainment takes place, the installation and operation of casinos and games called bingos, lotteries, slots machines, English lottery, electronic lottery, slot machines, video poker and electronic equestrian games, as well as any type of games of chance, is prohibited."
This week, the city’s vice mayor, Daniel Passerini, said he agreed with Quinteros' legal assessment.
“We made a decision and it is not to adhere to the provincial law, and not to modify the ordinance that prohibits gambling in the city. We are not going to enable electronic gaming agencies,” said Passerini in a public statement.
“We respect the Municipal Organic Charter and an ordinance that has been in place since before we took office (the Public Entertainment Code), which says that gambling is prohibited in Córdoba.”
Lotería de Córdoba had not responded to a request for clarification as of Tuesday (March 14). In the meantime, it appears that online gambling will still be technically accessible to those in the city of Córdoba when it goes live in the province.
Juan Pablo Quinteros acknowledged the conundrum on his Twitter account, writing this weekend: “It's all very nice but the people of Córdoba should know that in a few days online gambling will be enabled on every electronic device throughout the province, including the capital. While poverty rates are rising steadily, politicians are only looking at their wallets!”