Buenos Aires Pauses New Online Licences To Address Youth Gambling

June 28, 2024
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The City of Buenos Aires has halted applications for online gambling licences as part of a campaign to tackle adolescent gambling.
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The City of Buenos Aires has halted applications for online gambling licences as part of a campaign to tackle adolescent gambling.

The city government, which has handed out a total of 11 licences to operators since 2021, announced the freeze earlier this week as part of a broader campaign to address an apparent surge of youth gambling. 

Jorge Macri, the head of the city government, told local media: “Today students during recess have exchanged football and toys for betting on their cell phones, and that is dangerous.” 

Macri is the cousin of former Argentine president Mauricio Macri and a member of the same political party, PRO, which has tried to use austerity measures to fix Argentina’s inflation crisis to little avail. 

This latest announcement follows several other measures taken by the city, including blocking both legal and illegal betting sites from the wifi networks of schools and free government-provided wifi in public spaces. 

A special group dedicated to the treatment of youth gambling will be formed at the city’s Álvarez Hospital in addition to dedicated helplines, the government said.

The city’s government will also unify the 17 separate bills currently pending in the city legislature that address youth and problem gambling into a single legislative reform, Macri said.

Outside the City of Buenos Aires, youth gambling is also a matter of policy concern in Argentina.

The province of Córdoba has announced a legislative working group to address the issue. Various bills to restrict advertising or establish new responsible gambling restrictions have also been introduced in the Province of Buenos Aires, as well as in the National Congress.

Protecting Argentina's youth has also become a broader policy concern that extends far beyond concerns of gambling addiction.

According to UNICEF’s annual country report, Argentina is on track for 70 percent of children to be living in poverty. 

As things stand, 57.5 percent of children live in poverty as defined by a lack of economic resources, and 43 percent are living in poverty as defined as the “deprivation of fundamental rights” such as health and education. 

Poverty has been exacerbated by President Javier Milei’s austerity measures. The Argentine peso also depreciated 356 percent against the dollar in 2023.

Despite Jorge Macri’s statement this week that “online betting is one of the most serious problems in schools”, UNICEF reported that “14.3 percent children experienced extreme poverty, around 1 million skipped a meal daily, 41 per cent of households with children stopped buying some food items due to income constraints and around 30 percent stated they had become indebted to buy food”. 

“Being fully aware of the fiscal restrictions that the country is facing, UNICEF asks that children and adolescents are prioritised,” UNICEF’s Sebastián Waisgrais said at the time the Argentina report was published.

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