After months of scandal, Paraguay’s National Games of Chance Commission (Conajzar) has finally cancelled iCrop’s contract to supply coin slot machines in the country.
Almost two months after the enactment of Law 6903, which regulates the operation of slot machines, Conajzar revoked the resolution that established the contract with iCrop. Law 6903 banned slot machines anywhere other than authorised locations, namely casinos or sanctioned slot halls.
The primary impetus of the law has been advertised as protecting minors, but it also clarifies the rights that municipal governments have over the licensing process of slot halls in their respective jurisdictions.
Javier Balbuena, the former head of Conajzar who stepped down before the iCrop contract was issued, publicly commented on the news: “The struggle was not in vain. After several denunciations before the state control bodies, before the National Congress and with the realisation of several public demonstrations, Conajzar revoked the illegal resolution that enabled slot machines.”
Resolution 24/2022 annuls the resolution which contracted iCrop SA. It states: “In this document the commission recognised the illegality of the regularisation of slot machines in non-exclusive gambling businesses.”
Conajzar came to this decision, it says, with the counsel of an anonymous external legal advisor.
Eight people are currently being, or have been, prosecuted for the iCrop contract, one of who is still working at Conajzar. iCrop charged between $43 and $58 for each slot machine when the actual value was a quarter of that, a price legislators say was designed for money laundering.
Conajzar originally gave the company the contract for the slot machines via Resolution No. 34/2020. However, iCrop did not go through any determinable bidding process nor were the origins of the company that was created in 2018 clear.
It eventually drew the attention of the National Anticorruption Secretariat, which was asked to investigate by the President in 2021.
On July 15 of that year, the Senate called for the questioning of the disgraced head of the regulator, Ortiz Báez, after two requests for relevant documentation to Conajzar about iCrop were ignored. At the time, the minister of the secretariat publicly relayed his concern to the press that the documents were not freely available online.
In August, the National Anticorruption Secretariat gave Conajzar a rating of zero when evaluating its compliance with Law 5282.
Conajzar’s latest online management report dates back to 2012. This May, local outlet ABC reported that the site had still not been updated. The only recent change is the addition of an “Active Transparency” disclaimer, which says that Conajzar acts in compliance with Law 5282.
Conajzar has also dragged its feet to hand over public information to the press regarding its operations recently.
When ABC asked for a copy of File 54.500 (which should list the details of authorised online casino platforms and their respective legal representatives and Single Taxpayer Registry), it was told by Livia Buzo, the technical coordinator of Conajzar, that the information it sought was online, but in fact only a list of signatures was available.
Buzo told them in response that it should seek legal means to obtain the information, as “[t]he regulations (Law 5282 on Government Transparency) establish that only existing documents are made available. What is asked for is not there.”
At the Peru Gaming Show last week, Balbuena elaborated: “The situation in Paraguay is quite complicated. Today everything remains to be done, and in the regulatory process they have much to resolve. We hope that this process begins very soon and allows us to put this situation in order as soon as possible.”