While a public war of words breaks out within the industry, debate about regulating sports-betting advertising has been ongoing this past week behind closed doors, in the sports commission of Chile's Chamber of Deputies.
Members of the commission are weighing a pending resolution which seeks to make it illegal for online sports-betting operators to advertise not only in sports venues, but during their broadcasts. This would present a serious problem for the many betting operators that are sponsors of Chile’s football teams.
According to testimony broadcast by the local ADN radio, the president of the Chilean Casino Association, Juan Francisco Muñoz, said that "currently bookmakers take advantage of a popular activity, such as football, to present themselves as a legitimate operation, when they are not”.
But Carlos Baeza, a lawyer for operators Betsson, Betano, Coolbet and Latamwin, some of whom sponsor Chilean teams, disagrees that the companies' offerings are illegitimate.
“It has been widely held that online gambling is illegal and this is not correct. If you are a company that is not based in Chile, that's perfectly legal,” said Baeza.
“It's not a problem at all. You can be a company based anywhere in the world with a licence that was granted in any jurisdiction. And if you are not established legally here, there is not a problem for players in Chile to connect because by law, Chileans are allowed and free to connect to any site, anywhere in the world.”
Nevertheless, incumbent gambling interests in Chile have identified the influx of online operators as a threat.
Public lottery operator Polla Chilena Beneficencia, which operates both traditional lottery games and the Xperto online betting platform, insisted that operators such as Betsson "have arrived with their money to Chile and South America and have taken over the market. That is why we have seen the need to have a controlled, responsible game, with a robust, modernised Polla Chilena, and avoid what happens, for example, in professional soccer.”
Two deputies on the sports commission, Daniel Manouchehri and Andrés Celis, reportedly asked not only for the approval of the advertising bill, but also for the regulation of online betting in general, which has been proposed through a separate piece of legislation.
Consideration of the regulatory bill, which was first introduced by Chile's government in March, is currently on hold until at least mid-September, so it can be discussed within the context of the new President’s larger tax reform plan. In current form, the bill would place a 20 percent tax on gross income for operators and 15 percent for players.
Baeza sees the furor generated by the sports-advertising bill as not necessarily a bad thing for online betting interests.
“Even though it is a small bill, it has produced the effect that moved the main one [addressing all gambling]. So in the end, it was quite a good thing that happened, because the main one was actually on hold, nobody was pushing it.
“In certain time, probably both bills need to work together because the regulation bill also includes rules about advertising,” said Baeza. “So this is quite an interesting situation where probably, in the future, both things are going to be discussed by the Chamber of Deputies at the same time.”