In a shock move, Chile’s Ministry of Justice and Human Rights has issued a decision ordering the National Association of Professional Football (ANFP) to end all commercial relationships with online betting operators in the next 30 days, singling out a partnership with operator Betsson.
The ANFP was also ordered to submit to the ministry proof of the exact nature and business of all of its partners, including those partners’ ties to any foreign online gambling operators.
The investigation was initiated after testimony from Chilean federal deputies referencing alleged illegal activity being propagated via Chilean football.
Deputy Sebastián Videla, who submitted the official investigation request to the ministry, cited "the legality of the ANFP having commercial ties with online casino companies, which are not authorised by law in Chile".
A month ago, online gambling critic and deputy Jaime Mulet asked Congress to throw its weight behind the investigation.
As a result, Luis Cordero, who heads up the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, confirmed the investigation in a radio interview, which he said was in its final stages.
Carlos Baeza, a gaming lawyer who has worked with Betsson, called the move by the Ministry of Justice “absolutely illegal”.
“That is an absolutely jurisdictional power,” he explained. “In other words, it is a power that belongs exclusively to the courts of justice and never to a ministry by decree, to be able to annul a contract. This is a very clear rule.”
The ministry, in its published findings, sided with evidence submitted by Chile's national gambling regulator, the Casino Gaming Superintendence (SCJ).
“This ministry, called to hear the aforementioned controversy, endorses the legal position of the [SCJ], since it considers that as long as there is no sufficient legal authorisation, that is, a rule of express legal rank that allows the development and exploitation of online games of chance, the de facto execution of these, implies the development of an activity outside the current legal system, which leads us to the conviction that the operation of online games of chance constitutes an activity of an illicit nature.”
Jaime Gajardo, undersecretary of justice, said at a press conference: “We have determined that these contracts that [the ANFP] has with these third parties that carry out online bets domiciled abroad are not permitted in national legislation. Therefore, there is no other option than to leave them without effect.”
Baeza disagrees, saying that the law that the ministry cites (Article 556 of the Civil Code) to give them this authority refers to fixing minor irregularities, not annulling entire contracts.
“Betsson is a company that is an affected third party and therefore also has the right, procedurally speaking, to file this appeal for protection, which seems to us to be the way forward,” Baeza added.
“This resolution cannot be allowed to stand, this resolution is completely illegal. By virtue of this resolution, the Ministry of Justice is allocating to itself powers that it does not have and therefore this must be corrected."