Uruguay moves forward on online gambling ambitions

Lucía Mouriño – SBC Noticias

Lucía Mouriño, Editor of SBC Noticias, provides an on-the-ground perspective of Uruguay’s ambitions and domestic hurdles to legislate and formalise an online gambling marketplace.  

The Finance Commission of the Chamber of Senators of Uruguay has approved an online gambling policy project recently unveiled by the Executive branch. 

A bill that seeks to launch an online gambling marketplace has now been directed to the Chamber of Deputies to be discussed before being sent to the Senate for a final vote.

During the debate, the opposition party managed to add a supporting article to cover the financing of problem gambling programs. If approved, the National Directorate of Casinos (DGC) would be in charge of redirecting 5% of its gross profits to pending projects.

“At first, I criticised [this measure] because gambling addiction has increased globally when online betting is approved,” said Senator Alejandro Sánchez.

The Frente Amplio political party also asked for the State to be involved in setting responsible gambling policies. However, its representatives complained that a bonuses policy or a ban has not been contemplated.

Although a Senate commission approved the modified initiative, it is expected that it will meet some resistance in the Chamber of Deputies

Representative Sebastián Cal talked to local outlet El País and said that the responsible gambling measures contemplated in the bill “are not enough” and that more advertising restrictions will be required.

Online gambling regulation in Uruguay

Since the last quarter of 2021, Uruguay has moved forward with the regulation of the market due to a decree drafted by the Ministry of Economy.

The initiative would give the DGC the capacity to carry out the segment and authorise companies with land-based licences to operate online.

The project analyzes the “progress and significance that online gambling currently has and will surely have in the future” to establish official regulations.

Opposition from a domestic player

According to the Uruguayan media, the online gambling regulation includes a key detail for the Cipriani project in Punta del Este to move forward. The Executive power can authorise and revoke an online licence to current land-based concessionaires or companies or legal entities that may have such qualifications in the future, in accordance with the law.

The possibility for Cipriani to also operate online is one of the requests that the Italian group had made when developing its casino in the former San Rafael hotel.

However, group representatives have questioned the approach to the regulation and have described the proposal as “incomplete”.

As Pablo Monsuárez, Cipriani’s legal adviser, told El País, the rule doesn’t take into account the entire online gambling industry, saying that casino games would be under the responsibility of the DGC, while the rest under the National Directorate of Lotteries, something that the authority “doesn’t have the capacity to do.”

“If this remains as it is, there will be an unfair system,” he assured, saying that “it would generate players in the market with clear commercial advantages without large infrastructures to support it.”

“It’s nothing against this specific company, it would be the same if more companies were involved. It’s necessary to be clear with the conditions for those who participate, something that it’s not happening here,” he said.

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