Pragmatic Play Bets Big On Venezuela

February 20, 2023
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Pragmatic Play, one of the only international gambling companies to openly acknowledge it is pursuing online operations in Venezuela, has big hopes for the struggling country’s economic future.

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Pragmatic Play, one of the only international gambling companies to openly acknowledge it is pursuing online operations in Venezuela, has big hopes for the struggling country’s economic future.

Pragmatic Play has announced a series of partnerships to provide online gaming content to licensed online operators in Venezuela.

The hope is that one day Venezuela’s rich resources will pay off. So said Victor Arias, vice president of Latin America at Pragmatic Play, in an interview at the ICE trade show in London.

Long dogged by astronomical inflation, Venezuela has watched its economy suffer, despite being rich in natural resources.

Rates of inflation were estimated to be as high as 10m percent in 2019, but in 2021 the Central Bank of Venezuela said it expected rates to fall back to 50 percent in 2022.

Arias said he thinks investing now is a gamble that will pay off.

“I know Venezuela is a rich country. I know Venezuela is a big country with a huge potential. Lately we saw how they authorised land-based casinos to be operative again giving signs of more flexibility within our industry,” he said.

Arias is not the only one who thinks so. In a survey conducted by GB Group in December, which polled 71 Latin American operators, respondents indicated Venezuela was part of their future plans.

Although only 3 percent currently operate there, 44 percent answered that they plan to expand there within a year and 75 percent responded that they plan to be operating there within three years.

These results are significant for a country with barriers to entry that include a nascent legal online industry and a more opaque licensing process compared with other Latin American jurisdictions, such as neighbouring Colombia.

Venezuelan online operators have launched online sports betting and casino games under licences issued by the country's two national racing authorities. Separate regulatory authorities oversee land-based casinos and lottery games.

Pragmatic Play announced last week that it has partnered with Venezuelan operator Track and Races to provide live casino games.

Arias noted that Argentina, like Venezuela, has been plagued with long-term inflation, although on a much smaller scale. But unlike Venezuela, Argentina is already an economic power in the gambling market.

“For me, Venezuela was an investment. I entered because I want to position the product and I want people to know about it, betting on tomorrow," he said.

Tomás García Botta, a gaming lawyer for MF Estudio in Buenos Aires, anecdotally recounted that even during Argentina’s worst economic crash in 2001, people still gambled and the operator of a floating casino in Buenos Aires made record profits.

Arias acknowledged that inflation is more aggressive in Venezuela, but noted that the economy had largely switched away from the massively devalued national currency, the bolívar, to instead use US dollars or cryptocurrency.

This shift even extends to brick and mortar gambling. VIXIO GamblingCompliance reported in December that Venezuela’s Lottery of the East began accepting cryptocurrencies in the form of stablecoins as payment.

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