The Chilean Association of Casinos (ACCJ) has met with the country's National Consumer Service (Sernac) to discuss increasing consumer protection measures in the wake of complaints filed against online betting platforms.
It is yet another flashpoint for the casino industry and online platforms that are locked in a battle over the final text of an online gambling bill, each lobbying for stipulations that would be most favourable to them.
The ACCJ is the trade association that represents 16 land-based operators in Chile that make up 67 percent of the casinos in the country.
It used Chile's transparency law to obtain information about the number of complaints filed against the online operators in the past three years.
In 2021, Sernac received 26 complaints, 113 in 2022 and 18 this year for a total of 157 complaints over the past three years.
Of those 157 complaints, Betano received a total of 25, Betsson was the subject of 16, Juegalo received 16 and Coolbet received eight complaints.
Early this year, after similar campaigning, Chile’s Internal Revenue Service (SII) declared that online gambling is illegal and that offshore operators cannot use it to pay VAT, even though it had earlier ordered them to do so.
In a carefully worded resolution, the SII wrote in March: “This service does not have the power to and does not have the competence to qualify the lawfulness or unlawfulness of a given activity … . It does not mean that this Service is empowered to register as taxpayers those who carry out illicit activities or those who carry out illegal activities or those that have been declared illegal by other State bodies.”
Cecilia Valdés, president of the ACCJ, said in likewise carefully crafted statement: “Until now, all the complaints received by the Public Prosecutor's Office are investigated by the corresponding regional prosecutor's offices, without problems of active legitimacy having arisen because they are public illegal actions.
“However, given the way in which this illicit activity was committed, through web pages with domains outside of Chile, none of the investigated cases has reached the formalisation stage, since it is very difficult to identify the persons responsible and the powers of the Ministry Public are limited."
Onshore and offshore operators have used legal action to argue their cases. In March, for example, state lottery operator Polla Chilena de Beneficencia filed a criminal complaint against five online operators.
Carlos Baeza, a gaming lawyer who has worked with Betano, Betsson and Coolbet, told VIXIO GamblingCompliance that the online operators do not see the recent complaint requests as “very relevant”.
“It's probably framed within their policies of promoting responsible gaming and that's why they are working together with them,” Baeza said of the consumer protection agency.
Work on the bill that would allow online operators to be licensed is continuing, he said.
“For example, we have already been summoned for next Tuesday, for a meeting of the Economy Committee, the regulation project is second on the docket and probably the voting of the indications will start,” Baeza said.
The bill was introduced last March by the former Chilean government and was recently approved in a preliminary vote by the economy committee of the Chamber of Deputies.