Lawyers and operators have given contrasting perspectives on the legality of online sports betting sponsorships for football teams in unregulated markets such as Chile, Uruguay and Brazil.
Carlos Silva Alliende, a lawyer and the corporate affairs manager for land-based casino operator Dreams SA in Chile, put it bluntly: “I would not say it’s a grey market, it’s a dirty market.
“When the authority is a little reluctant [to prosecute and regulate], it gets dirty and illegal platforms and illegal casinos start working.”
Silva Alliende was speaking during the SBC Summit Latinoamerica on Thursday (November 3).
Dreams filed complaints this year against four prominent offshore betting operators, including Betsson and Coolbet, for their sponsorships of local football teams.
At the time, the casino operator cited Articles 275, 276, and 277 of the Chilean Penal Code, which govern the legality of games of chance and lotteries, “without the authorisation of the Superintendence of Casino Gaming”.
However, Silva Alliende said the cases have stalled as Dreams has been unable to serve the operators with papers because they are not located in Chile.
The location of the operator is precisely the reason why other Chilean lawyers, such as Betsson and Coolbet’s local representative Carlos Baeza, say nothing illegal is going on.
He told VIXIO GamblingCompliance in August: “It has been widely held that online gambling is illegal and this is not correct. If you are a company that is not based in Chile, that's perfectly legal ... by law, Chileans are allowed and free to connect to any site, anywhere in the world.”
Silva Alliende believes that platforms have ulterior motives. “What we believe is that these platforms are using football to push the regulation through to have regulated markets.”
The operators themselves claim otherwise.
Andrea Rossi, commercial director for Southern Europe and Latin America for Betsson, which sponsors Chile’s Colo-Colo football team, emphasised that the company and its partner have legal and transparent contracts.
“We will face whatever is coming. The only thing I would like to stress is that we are not really trying to push back,” he said.
Rossi furthered that its purpose is marketing, and that only. “I believe that it's just a matter of communicating our brand and what we do in a very clear and transparent way. We did it in several markets.”
The sports-betting sponsorship challenge has become an issue for the main regional association for football in South America, better known as CONMEBOL. The association faced fines from the Uruguayan Football Association (AUF) this summer for displaying the ads of sports-betting sponsors during international tournaments that were on Uruguayan soil, where online gambling is not legal unless offered by the national lottery.
Julio Lansac, integrity officer at CONMEBOL, told VIXIO: “Each country has their principles, so we can’t have an opinion on a national deal.”
One thing everyone seems to agree on is that regulation will help.
Silva Alliende said: “Of course we would like it to be regulated, but the law is not passed.”