This article provides an overview of the key aspects of online gambling legislation as to sports betting and gaming within Bolivia. Other territories in Brazil will be addressed in more detail in a series of pieces that will be published in the run-up to our upcoming inaugural event in São Paulo.
Gambling in Bolivia has a long and storied history, with various forms of games and betting being popular throughout the years. However, the Bolivian government did not begin regulating gambling activities until 2002 when the National Lottery of Bolivia (LNB) was established, and in 2010, the Bolivian Gambling Control Authority (AJ) was created to oversee and control all gambling-related activities in the country.
The online gambling industry in Bolivia operates under a complex legal framework. Law No. 060, enacted in 2010, is the primary legislation governing the gambling sector in Bolivia. It explicitly bans all unauthorised gambling activities, including online gambling, and stipulates severe penalties for both operators and players engaging in such activities.
However, the law does not clearly outline the process for obtaining licenses for online gambling operators, creating a legal grey area. As a result, many foreign online gambling websites accept Bolivian players, with limited enforcement from the government.
At the 2020 Public Accountability Hearing, the then AJ executive director Juan Carlos Antonio Abrego presented a proposal to update the gambling regulation and make way for a better and more complete industry,
He said: “We are working on a new regulation to benefit companies, a new sanctioning regime and the amendment of Law 060, with the goal of boosting the economy, strengthening the business portfolio and therefore generating employment and creating wealth in the country.”
One of the most important points of the amendments will be the introduction of the online gaming vertical, which is developing throughout the continent, despite the fact that governments don’t benefit due to the lack of regulation and tax regimes.
Little progress was made in the regulations, and in April 2023 the AJ announced that controls over the industry will be increased and a study will be carried out to find out the size of the online market. The current executive director of the AJ, Jessica Saravia Atristain said that one of the main reasons for the study was the rise of online gambling during the pandemic.
“One of the effects of the pandemic was the increase in unauthorized online gambling pages. Therefore, we will take the necessary steps to eliminate these illegal activities that do not guarantee fair and transparent gambling,” she said.
In addition, the board will carry out a study to find out the percentage of people who participate in gambling activities via both land based betting and online betting sites in Santa Cruz, Cochabamba, La Paz, Tarija and Sucre, all cities where according to the AJ gambling had increased the most.
The Bolivian Gambling Control Authority is responsible for issuing licenses to operators, but as mentioned above, the process for obtaining an online gambling license is not well-defined. In practice, most online gambling operators catering to Bolivian players are licensed in other jurisdictions, such as Malta, Gibraltar, or Curacao. These operators often follow the regulations of their licensing authority, which may or may not align with Bolivian laws.
This lack of a clear licensing process has led to calls for the Bolivian government to establish a more robust and transparent regulatory framework, which could help control the industry, protect players, and generate tax revenue for the country.
The future of online gambling regulations in Bolivia
Despite the ambiguity in the current legal landscape, the Bolivian government has shown interest in developing a more comprehensive regulatory framework for online gambling. In recent years, there have been discussions about introducing amendments to the Law No. 060 to explicitly address online gambling and create a well-defined licensing process.
Such amendments could potentially pave the way for a more regulated and controlled online gambling market in Bolivia, benefiting both the government and players. However, the timeline for the implementation of these changes remains uncertain.
In conclusion, online gambling regulations in Bolivia currently exist in a state of legal uncertainty, with no clear framework governing the licensing and operation of online gambling providers. This ambiguity has led to a thriving grey market, with foreign operators accepting Bolivian players without significant enforcement from the government.
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