Chile-facing online gambling operator Latamwin has decided to remove the Chilean football league from its sports-betting offering in the country, in the latest sign of pressure on offshore sites ahead of a regulated market being established.
On July 15, the Casino Gaming Superintendence (SCJ) issued a statement to local newspaper Mercurio reminding operators that sports betting is still illegal in Chile and “unless expressly authorised … any other natural or juridical person who does so will be committing an illicit act”.
Carlos Baeza, Latamwin’s lawyer, told VIXIO GamblingCompliance: “We are in the middle of the discussion about the bill which regulates online betting under the Chilean Congress. The decision was a way to show there is no conflict of interest of any kind between betting companies and professional football competition. This will be in place for a while but of course, we will review the decision in the near future.”
Currently, 11 of the 16 football teams in the country are sponsored by unregulated sports-betting operators.
Latamwin is the patron of first division team O’Higgins de Rancagua through an agreement the company made when it first launched operations in Chile just this March.
The company elaborated in a public statement last week: “Even though Latamwin is a company with no domicile or residence in Chile, we want to reinforce our commitment to the sport in the country. This measure is a sign of the transparency of our activity and we hope it will help to clear up any doubts and prevent any circumstance that may call into question the integrity of the Chilean professional soccer league.”
Pablo Milad, the president of the Chilean National Football Association (ANFP), last week warned in an interview with La Tercera that clubs had come to depend on sports betting financially, but defended its legal status.
“Today there is no regulation. We want it to be regulated, but we cannot say that it is illegal if it is not regulated. In the world it has been regulated and I cannot say that soccer is endorsing something illegal, I do not agree,” he said.
Latamwin’s move is the latest reaction to various efforts in recent months in Chile to restrict unregulated online sports betting.
Congressman Marco Antonio Sulantay presented a bill in June to ban online betting operators from advertising at sporting events or sports clubs, both on-site and in their broadcasts. The bill was approved by the sports committee of the Chamber of Deputies in mid-July but has yet to be brought up on the floor of the lower house.
In June, Chilean casino operators filed the latest lawsuits in a series of legal actions against offshore betting sites, seeking either to shut them down or to force regulation.
Although online gambling and sports betting is not yet legal, legislation was introduced in March by the former Chilean government to regulate the sector.
If approved, the bill would tax operators at 20 percent of gross gaming revenue and would provide for an unlimited number of licences to be available during specific licensing windows.
The bill will receive its first hearing before the economy committee of the Chamber of Deputies on August 2, with both the finance minister and the president of the SCJ invited to testify.