Ecuador’s embattled new President Daniel Noboa has withdrawn a petition to reopen casinos and gaming halls in the country from the Constitutional Court two weeks after first proposing it.
Ecuador has been swept up in a firestorm of violence, with Noboa declaring a 60-day state of emergency on January 8 to contain what he termed an “internal armed conflict” with drug gangs.
The military is targeting 22 armed groups within the country and, as of Friday (January 19), recorded that it had detained 2,369 people and militarised the ports in an action dubbed "Operation Fénix".
In light of this, casinos and gaming halls have been taken off the agenda as they are seen as a way to launder money for organised crime groups.
Just 18 days ago the President had suggested, in an official annex, that reopening them was justified as part of an effort to reduce money laundering and crime, as well as to provide more jobs.
The question, which was one of 11 that was submitted to the Constitutional Court to be put to a referendum, read: “Do you agree that casinos, game rooms, betting houses or businesses dedicated to gambling should be allowed to operate, under the conditions detailed in the Annex to Question 11?”
It appeared alongside questions that all addressed security measures, such as Question 4, which asked: “Do you agree with the increase in the penalties for the crimes of: terrorism and its financing, organised crime, murder, contract killings.”
Last week alone, government back security forces raided a prison complex in Guayaquil to quell weeks of rioting inside.
And last Wednesday, prosecutor César Suárez was murdered by masked gunmen on his way to a hearing. Suárez was investigating organised crime.
Although Noboa is up for re-election in just 17 months, he has said that it is not his primary concern, but rather his desire to fix the country.
Against this backdrop, sports lawyer and founder of Conlegal Sports and Entertainment, Santiago Zambrano, told Vixio GamblingCompliance: “I think we all understand that casinos are not the priority for Ecuador due to the criminal situations so I support the measure to withdraw the question.”
As things are, Zambrano said: “Businesses are being affected by the lack of security so many companies won’t have the budget to sponsor teams or events.”