Buenos Aires Open For Business

Buenos Aires Open For Business

The city of Buenos Aires has adopted final regulations and licensing requirements for online gambling, allowing operators to apply for permits to conduct online sports betting and casino games in the Argentine capital.

Buenos Aires’ lottery authority (LOTBA) adopted a series of regulations for internet gambling on Thursday and then published them in the city’s official bulletin on Friday, taking the final steps to implement a law that was passed by the city legislature in December 2018.

According to a 15-page licensing decree, any local or international company with a minimum two years’ experience operating online gambling and net worth of US$25m will be eligible to apply for five-year licenses to offer a full range of online gambling products, bar lottery games.

Licensees will be required to pay an annual fee of US$100,000 and 10 percent tax on revenue, as well as a US$30,000 application fee, according to the decree. Operators must also provide a compliance surety in the amount of US$2m.

Alongside an initial set of regulations adopted last May, operators will have to comply with specific new rules published Friday related to advertisinganti-money laundering and responsible gambling.

LOTBA also published detailed technical standards for online gambling, plus regulations governing the sanctions it can apply for compliance breaches by licensees.

Advertising and sponsorship will be permitted, although operators will face similar rules to those of many European jurisdictions and must not run ads that are offensive to the nation of Argentina or its institutions.

They will also be allowed to use popular sports stars or celebrities in ads only if those personalities also deliver warning messages regarding problem gambling.

In terms of responsible gambling, requirements include performing an annual assessment as to the riskiness of all games based on actual player behavior, with “specific responsible gambling measures” incorporated into any game designs identified as high risk. All online slot games also must have a minimum spin time of three seconds.

Although the city of Buenos Aires is now open for applications, when the market will go live is not clear.

There does not appear to be any deadline for applications, while operators would have up to six months to launch after being awarded a license. An earlier regulatory decree from May 2019 suggested that no operator could launch until at least three licenses have been awarded.

The Other Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires is home to some 3m people but the population swells to much more than that during the daytime as commuters travel to work in by far Argentina’s largest city.

Adding to the market’s appeal is the fact the city’s law was passed within weeks of similar legislation being enacted in the neighbouring province of the same name, which is home to more than 15m residents.

The licensing process in Buenos Aires Province has stalled, however, with no public update from regulators since a deadline to announce the results of a tender process for seven available licenses came and went last year.

The conventional wisdom remains that the licensing process was put on hold ahead of October’s provincial elections, which led to a change of government and new leadership of Buenos Aires’ institute for lotteries and casinos (IPLyC).

In December, Buenos Aires’ newly elected governor, Axel Kicillof, named his chief of staff, Carlos Bianco, to serve as the new IPLyC president on an interim basis, replacing Matias Lanusse in the role. The appointment of a permanent IPLyC president is considered to be imminent, according to a report last week in Argentina’s La Nacion newspaper.

Among the 14 groups submitting applications for the seven licenses available in Buenos Aires Province were a variety of newly formed joint ventures between Argentine bingo-hall operators and heavyweights of the online industry, including bet365, Flutter, William Hill and 888.

In the province, license applicants are supposed to be scored against a series of competitive selection criteria.

In contrast, regulations in the city of Buenos Aires allow licenses to be issued to all qualified operators, with no limit on their number.

International operators also are not obliged to form partnerships with local companies, as they are in the province, although the city’s regulations do expressly allow for them to do so.

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