Almost at the end of 2021, the online gaming industry got a glimpse of the possibility of having a newly regulated market in South America: a bill signed by Uruguayan president Luis Lacalle Pou entered the Senate in November. However, the official initiative raised concerns even among the supporters, such as Cabildo Abierto (Open Cabildo), one of the five parties of the ruling coalition in Uruguay.
"Rather than critics, these are contributions to the project presented by the Executive. Our objective is to address some things that were overlooked", Uruguay's House of Representatives member for the department of Maldonado, Sebastián Cal, told Yogonet in a video interview.
"The proposed legislation that the Executive Branch sent to the Senate does not include sports betting, which in the country is managed by a company that has the monopoly. Online gambling is becoming an important support for land-based gambling. It will be difficult for casinos to survive in the future without the support of online gaming", he added.
When he mentions the monopoly, he refers to Supermatch, a brand operated by La Banca de Quinielas. In a column published in La Diaria, the former director of Loterías y Quinielas, Luis Gama, also pointed out this difference between sports betting and online casino, and stressed the need to regulate the sector as a whole.
THE FEE, THE KEY
"Whoever holds the monopoly of this type of betting today does not pay any additional fee other than the taxes paid by any other type of company. This is another point to be dealt with. We cannot demand a fee from companies that are going to settle in Uruguay (Editor's note: a clear reference to the Cipriani Group) or from companies that make a contribution of up to US$ 8 million per year, as is the case of the main casino in our department and I believe also in the country, the Enjoy Punta del Este, and then exclude one of them from said rule", he argued.
Cal proposes introducing digital identification in order to establish limits to detect problem gambling or possible money laundering schemes. "A person who earns 100 pesos per month cannot gamble 100 pesos per month because he would clearly be leaving his family without food" and "a person who earns US$ 1000 per month cannot gamble US$ 10000 per month", he explained.
If the coalition senators accept the suggested changes -which the Cabildo Abierto party is working to promote with Cal as spokesman-, perhaps they could be included in the Executive's bill. If this does not happen, Cabildo Abierto will present the proposed legislation in the Chamber of Deputies.
The legislator was clear about the goal they are pursuing: "We want to protect investments and create clear and fair rules for those who invest in gambling. We cannot have a set of rules for some and a different set of rules for others. Secondly, the prevention of problem gambling and money laundering are, for me, the most important issues. The main objective of this alternative project will undoubtedly be to protect both the users and the companies that may be interested in setting up and obtaining their online gaming license here in our country".
Congressman Sebastián Cal and Uruguayan President Luis Lacalle Pou.
SLOT MACHINES IN ROUTE
According to the deputy, the Government is also missing the opportunity to regulate the slot machines that operate outside the casinos, mostly in small neighborhood stores in vulnerable areas. He foresees two possible ways, prohibition or regulation, and he is inclined to the latter. He suggests that the sanctioning or regulatory power should rest with the municipalities.
"The worst option is the one that is on the table today, which is the omission, the omission to deal with the reality of 25,000 slot machines. Maybe for some countries, this is not such an important number, but here combining the machines of all the casinos, private and state-owned, there are a total of between 5,000 and 6,000 machines. In other words, we are talking about four times the number of unregulated machines, which are creating unfair competition for those who make an investment in Uruguay or who are investing in generating employment in the country and who are paying a fee", he said.
Senator Gustavo Penadés of the National Party, the group that leads the coalition, announced publicly that the bill signed by Lacalle Pou will have priority this new legislative year. In order to achieve its goal, the Government needs - Cal warns - the votes from the Cabildo Abierto party.
The exclusive video interview is available on Yogonet's YouTube channel in Spanish.