Uruguay is on the verge of approving an online gambling bill. Despite a postponement in discussing the project until March 2023, officials are hopeful that the bill will be passed by the House of Representatives.
Jack Smith, Sales Director at Sportingtech, discusses the attractive nature of the LatAm market and who could follow suit in the region.
Online gambling has taken off in LatAm in the past five years. With Uruguay’s bill set to be discussed further in March, will providers and operators be keen to work within that country should the bill be passed?
What was particularly interesting was the Uruguayan senate’s sanction of certain land-based casinos to operate online gaming. An omni-channel approach holds a huge amount of potential in the burgeoning market, with a great deal of momentum and synergy to be gained from effectively operating different gaming formats. But with an estimated 3.5 million population, there’s also ample opportunity for online operators to become licensed under a new regime.
Chile and Peru are set to be next to have gambling bills approved. By the end of 2023, can you see any other LatAm countries following suit?
Ecuador has been in our compliance crosshairs for some time now. With an estimated population of 18.4 million, the nation would benefit from reforming its gambling laws, which have had a decidedly chequered past. Despite a complete ban on gambling in Ecuador, this hasn’t stopped its Internal Revenue Service (SRI) from subjecting eight online betting operators to VAT. Their rationale is simple – since these operators are based in another country, they’re basically not engaging in illegal activity inside Ecuador so the SRI may collect tax. Our compliance team likes to think that this is a prelude for Ecuadorian legislators to rethink the country’s gambling ban.
What makes LatAm such an attractive market for players and operators/providers?
It’s the sheer potential of the region, which is particularly the case for businesses that have an early foot in the door. This is aided by the favorable regulatory direction many of its jurisdictions are taking. This is particularly evident when compared to regions that are taking a more austere approach, such as the US, where there appears to be an ongoing race to the bottom. Not only is the proverbial pie big enough to go around in LatAm, but rolling it out in its emerging jurisdictions is far more cost-effective.
Colombia was the first South American country to approve online gambling back in 2016. Six years later, is online gambling still as popular as ever there?
Gambling is popular in Colombia, but it hasn’t had a particularly strong legislative start. It has put such stringent measures in place and made it so expensive for operators that they risk seeing a lot of business lost to their surrounding countries. These measures have meant the market is dominated by European operators that are able to bankroll such expenses, but there is always a market for localized offerings that tap into a more patriotic product.
How do you think other continents will view the success of regulated LatAm markets and do you think this will inspire a similar course for other regions that are yet to be regulated?
African legislators can learn a great deal from the trials and tribulations of their LatAm counterparts. As African nations develop on the world stage, the aspirations of countless African consumers will be informed by mobile phones and internet services. Leisure and entertainment, including online gambling, will be enjoyed by millions across the continent.
Yet we have to temper our optimism to a certain degree due to the practicalities of serving developing nations. In other words, we may have favorable regulatory regimes but, unless operators can reach consumers, their offerings may have limited impact.