Two upcoming regulatory deadlines are set to serve as critical milestones in the development of Latin America’s closely watched online market.
Under a recently approved law, Peru’s Ministry of Foreign Commerce and Tourism has 120 days from August 13 — or December 11, 2022 — to publish a regulatory decree to establish a national licensing regime for online gaming and sports betting open to Peruvian and international operators.
One day later will mark the end of a four-year window open to Brazil’s Ministry of Economy to similarly publish regulations for online and retail sports betting, in accordance with a federal lotteries law signed in December 2018.
Brazil is currently in a period of political uncertainty due to the pending presidential election run-off later this month.
Nevertheless, the current expectation among government officials in Brasilia is that “the deadline of the 12th of December will be met and the regulation will be coming out in November”, Neil Montgomery, a gaming lawyer with Montgomery & Associados in Sao Paulo, told delegates at last week’s Global Gaming Expo (G2E) in Las Vegas.
“That will finally make Brazil a regulated market, giving operators certainty to invest.”
Less likely to happen this year is a Senate vote on a broader gambling bill to regulate online and land-based casinos, which passed the Chamber of Deputies in February but may have to wait until 2023 to be brought up in the upper house, according to Montgomery.
In Peru’s case, although the law is on the books, a regulatory decree is needed to “complete” the country’s gambling market by adding legal sports betting and online gaming to land-based casino and slot-hall facilities, said Nicolás Samohod of Vidal Caceres Abogados law firm in Lima.
A draft decree for online gambling is understood to be imminent, potentially even being released for public comment as soon as this week, according to delegates at G2E.
Adoption of regulations in both Peru and Brazil would see the two countries catch the wave of regulatory change that has spread across the wider Latin American region over recent years.
“It is a market that is growing very, very fast,” said Juan Camilo Carrasco, a lawyer with Asensi Abogados in Bogota.
Carrasco told G2E delegates that Colombia’s regulated online gambling market is expected to reach approximately US$390m in total gross gaming revenue in its fifth full year of operations in 2022.
Online sports betting should account for around 55 percent of that total, he said, but online casino games are quickly growing in popularity, with live-dealer casino accounting for approximately 12 percent of the market since being permitted around two years ago.
Recent launches in Colombia by William Hill, Flutter’s Betfair and Entain’s Bwin mean “we are seeing big fish get into the market, but the local presence is very strong”, Carrasco said, referencing the use by Colombian operators of retail payments channels as a strong advantage.
Elsewhere, GLI vice president for Latin America, Karen Sierra-Hughes, noted that Argentina’s Córdoba and Mendoza provinces are in the process of introducing licensing regimes for online gambling, expanding a regulated Argentine market that already includes licensing regimes in both the province and city of Buenos Aires.
Legislation is also pending to establish a Spanish-style licensing window in Chile, although Sierra-Hughes told G2E delegates that operators interested in entering the Chilean market once it becomes regulated are likely to find that licensing investigations performed by local gaming officials are among the strictest in the region.
Meanwhile, Mexico is yet another Latin American market in the spotlight.
In terms of regulation, the Mexican market has shown stability since a 2004 regulatory decree recognised the possibility of internet betting and enabled traditional bingo halls to become de facto casinos, said Alfredo Lazcano, founding partner of Lazcano Samano law firm in Mexico City.
Still, there is rising interest in Mexico among North American and international operators, in part due to the fast developing U.S. market to the north, he said.
With Mexico’s primary gambling law dating back to 1947, federal deputies have recently called for the adoption of new legislation, with movement possible before the end of this year, Lazcano told G2E delegates.
Another possibility is an amendment to the 2004 regulatory decree for the first time in a decade, to address such issues as advertising and responsible gaming.
“We need to update this legal framework,” Lazcano said.