A district judge in Mexico has granted injunctions to three gaming operators that protect them from a November decree banning new licences for slot machines and other casino-style games.
The decree, which was signed by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador on November 15, has drawn fire for not incorporating industry feedback that was offered after publication of a draft version in September.
Legal critics also called it unconstitutional, citing a 2016 Supreme Court ruling that found de facto gaming machines offering “drawings of numbers of symbols” were a form of drawing permissible under Mexican law.
At the time, law firm Portilla, Ruy-Diaz & Aguilar told Vixio GamblingCompliance that through those changes to ban the machines, the interior ministry “pretends to set itself up as a court and disregard the constitutionality of the aforementioned articles, whose constitutionality was recognized by the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation.”
At least one court, under judge Gabriel Regis, a Sixteenth District Judge in Administrative Matters, believes that operator efforts to strike down the changes in the November decree have merit.
According to local media reports, 12 licensed gaming operators have filed for injunctions against November's decree.
Of these applications, six cases have been accepted so far, and of those, three operators have been granted injunctions allowing normal operations until the courts resolve the issue. The three are Operadora Megawin, Eventos Festivos de México and El Palacio de los Números.
The injunctions may be redundant, however, given that gaming machines and table games may continue to be offered through the expiry of current licences, and given that no federal gambling permits are up for renewal for at least another five years.
The interior ministry, or Segob, has argued that the government will save 5bn pesos (US$294m) in treating gambling addiction by banning casino-style games, while critics say the government is not legally responsible for patient care.
Other filings for injunctions from operators including Codere and Zitro Games have been denied or put on hold pending clarification of their demands.
Multiple press outlets have reported that AIEJA, one of two national associations representing gambling operators, was one of the injunction applicants.
But AIEJA press director Xavier Criou told Vixio on Wednesday (January 3) the reports were erroneous.
"AIEJA has not filed any injunction. Each company — member or not of our association — has had and has the freedom to do so individually,” he said.
In November, AIEJA president Miguel Ángel Ochoa Sánchez predicted that reforms to the 2004 gambling regulation would face legal challenges and that there would be plenty of time for the situation to be overturned ahead of practical impacts on operations.
“The changes, based on this text, would come upon the expiration of the current permits, which the authority intends to limit to 15 years, without the possibility of renewal,” he told Vixio.
“Now, this period of time opens a wide window to legally defend the rights of our companies.”