This regional summary provides a brief overview of the key aspects of online gambling legislation as to sports betting and gaming within each country’s domestic regime. Subsequently, each territory 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 Brazil.
The regulatory landscape across the Latin American region is complex and varies significantly from country to country. At present the news cycle is dominated by Brazil, and understandably so, as the country has just recently introduced ground-breaking legislation for online sports betting after many years of uncertainty, starts and stops.
Gambling in Latin America has traditionally been dominated by small casinos, bingo halls, and unlicensed street-level gaming. The market is localised despite the shared language in Central and South America. Spanish gaming conglomerates have a strong position in the region, but international interest has been fuelled by legislative developments in the online sector in the last few years, and despite the ad hoc structure within the continent itself there is already a thriving market for online gambling accommodated by operator licensed in other third-party jurisdictions such as Malta, Isle of Man and Curacao.
Colombia was the region’s innovator by way of online gambling regulations and its legal market had surpassed USD 300 million in GGR by 2021, and other major markets like Argentina, and Mexico are partially regulated. These progressive moves are encouraging, in particular, as the trio of Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico collectively account for about 60% of the continent’s population and at least two-thirds of the economic activity in the broader LatAm region.
Lotteries in the region rely heavily on traditional draw-based games (rather than instant win/scratch cards), but there is a transition towards modernized retail networks and online sales channels with the lotteries or their regulators oftentimes becoming the authority over other online gambling initiatives including sports betting and gaming.
Argentina has a federal system, meaning that each of the 23 provinces and the autonomous city of Buenos Aires regulates gambling independently. Online gambling is legal and regulated in some provinces, such as Buenos Aires and Misiones. In these regions, licenses are awarded to operators through a competitive bidding process. In other provinces, online gambling remains unregulated or prohibited. Overall, Argentina’s online gambling legislation is fragmented and can be difficult to navigate.
Online gambling is currently illegal in Bolivia, as the country’s gambling laws prohibit all forms of unauthorised remote gambling, including online casinos, sports betting, and poker sites. The government has not issued any licenses for online gambling operators.
For many years Brazil has been working towards a comprehensive legal framework for online gambling. The country’s sports betting market was legalized in 2018 through the passage of Law No. 13,756. Regulations are still evolving vis-à-vis online betting with long-anticipated progress having been made in April 2023.
In Chile there is a well-established land-based sector with numerous casinos throughout the country, however, online gambling remains in a legal grey area. The Chilean government has not issued licenses to online operators, but there has been no effort to prosecute players for accessing offshore gambling sites. In recent years, there have been discussions about the potential legalization and regulation of online gambling in Chile, but no concrete steps have been taken thus far.
Colombia was the first country in Latin America to establish a comprehensive regulatory framework for online gambling. In 2016, the country passed Resolution 4,656, which established a licensing system for online gambling operators. The Colombian regulator, Coljuegos, has since issued multiple licenses to both local and international operators. Online casino games, sports betting, and poker are all legal and regulated in Colombia.
Gambling is illegal in Ecuador with the land-based casinos and bingo halls shuttered in 2012. Online gambling is similarly prohibited.
Guyana does have laws governing gambling in general, including the Gambling Prevention Act of 2013, which prohibits certain forms of gambling and regulates others. Under the Act, only licensed operators are allowed to offer gambling services, and penalties can be imposed on those who violate the law. However, the Act does not specifically address online gambling, leaving its regulation uncertain.
Mexico’s online gambling landscape is regulated under the Federal Gaming and Raffles Law. While the law does not explicitly mention online gambling, it has been interpreted as allowing licensed operators to offer online services. In 2014, the Mexican government introduced a bill to regulate online gambling explicitly. However, this bill has yet to be passed, and as a result, the Mexican market remains somewhat unregulated, with players often accessing offshore sites.
Nicaragua legalised online gambling in 2011 and established the Nicaraguan Gaming Control Board to regulate the industry. The board is responsible for issuing licenses to operators and ensuring that they comply with the country’s gambling laws. Online gambling is only permitted for individuals over the age of 18, and operators must have a physical presence in the country to obtain a license. The government of Nicaragua also taxes online gambling operators, with taxes ranging from 5% to 25% of gross gaming revenue depending on the type of game being offered. While online gambling is legal in Nicaragua, there are some restrictions on certain types of games and advertising practices.
Panama is home to a well-regulated gambling industry, with online gambling being explicitly legalized in 2002 under the Online Gaming Act. The country’s regulator, the Panama Gaming Control Board, issues licenses to operators and provides oversight for the industry. However, Panama’s market is relatively small compared to its neighbours, and many players still choose to access offshore gambling websites.
Paraguay has a mixed approach to online gambling regulation. While the country has a legal and regulated land-based gambling industry, online gambling is neither explicitly legal nor illegal. There are no licenses available for online operators, and no specific laws governing the activity. As a result, players often access offshore gambling sites.
Peru’s Ministry of Foreign Commerce and Tourism submitted a draft law to regulate online gambling and sports betting to President Pedro Castillo’s Cabinet of Ministers in March 2022. The proposal seeks to introduce a regulatory framework for online casino and sports betting, requiring approved gambling sites to operate via locally registered domains and have a legal representative in Peru. The regulation could bring in $409m in revenue by year five of regulation. Plans to license online gambling will be supported by ISP blocking and advertising bans for unlicensed operators, adopting a European-style approach previously used in Colombia.
Online gambling is currently prohibited in Uruguay, except for online sports betting and lottery games offered by the state-controlled lottery monopoly. The government is working to channel online betting activity to the regulated sector and has introduced legislation to exempt online casino games from the current ban on online gambling.
Online gambling is legal in Venezuela, but it is strictly regulated by the National Commission of Casinos, Bingo Halls and Slot Machines (CNC). The CNC is responsible for issuing licenses to operators and ensuring that they comply with the country’s gambling laws, including anti-money laundering regulations. To operate legally, online gambling operators must have a physical presence in Venezuela and pay taxes to the government. The government also has strict rules regarding the types of games that can be offered and prohibits certain types of gambling activities, such as sports betting. Overall, while online gambling is legal in Venezuela, it is subject to significant regulation and restrictions.
SiGMA Americas is coming to Brazil this June. Don’t miss out on what promises to be an extraordinary event, with a wealth of industry-leading knowledge, innovative insights and a plentiful plethora of premium networking opportunities.