A draft law that would allow casinos in Uruguay to offer their games online has been approved by the finance committee in the Chamber of Senators.
Changes made to the bill before going to the committee include requiring the National Directorate of Casinos to fund the treatment of gambling addiction with 5 percent of its gross profits.
The amendment is necessary "because gambling addiction has grown in the world when online betting is enabled", said senator Alejandro Sánchez.
The directorate must also create responsible gaming rules that clearly establish the policies that casinos must abide by when identifying gambling addicts.
A large impetus for movement on the bill, which was first introduced by Uruguay's government last November, is pressure from a new casino-hotel complex financed by the Cipriani hospitality group that has been under consideration for some time.
Luis Gama, the former director of lotteries in Uruguay and current partner at the firm Gaming Consultants, told VIXIO GamblingCompliance of the Cipriani project: “Undoubtedly it is a determining factor that there is a rush to get this law out. Because there is a pending investment that I would say is subject to the regulation of the online casinos.”
Cipriani is not necessarily going to be pleased with the bill in its current form, however, given that the company's lawyers raised objections to its contents before the Senate in May.
At the time, legal representative Pablo Monsuárez told the Senate that the bill would only properly regulate online games of skill and not online games of chance.
The bill would not regulate all forms of online gambling, and instead leave online sports betting under a monopoly of Uruguay's Banca de Quinielas national lottery.
“What it is going to generate is that there are players or participants in the market that have clear commercial advantages and without large infrastructures to maintain. It is nothing against a specific company; it would be the same if there were one, two or three companies,” he said.
According to the bill, online casino games would be under the jurisdiction of the General Directorate of Casinos, while sports betting would remain controlled by the National Directorate of Lotteries and Quinielas.
“There is no history of online gaming being regulated by two organisations, due to the complexity. It is paradoxical that while one part of online gaming will continue to operate as a monopoly, the other part would operate under a certain number of licences to be awarded,” Gama wrote in May.
Gama told VIXIO that the small changes made to the final bill in the time since then are not significant enough to warrant support or fix the issues.
“I was very critical in that [article]. It has been partially resolved, but badly in my opinion. [These are] modifications that do not affect the substance of the matter.”
Changes include the possibility of creating a provisional licence for projects that are in the works and creating a fund to tackle gambling harm.
After approval by the Senate, the bill will next head to the Chamber of Deputies, where it is expected to face opposition from the Cabildo Abierto right-wing party.