Online gambling in Latin America
What exactly Latin America is? What are the prospects for gambling development in the region? What are the specialties in the legal system of Latin America and what should be expected in the future? All of these issues are reviewed by experts from the Slotegrator company in the following material.
Gambling evolution in the Latin American region
Latin America is a collective name for the countries of South and, partially, North America, as well as the surrounding island states. It has to do with the fact that the Roman languages, which are official in Latin American countries, originated from Latin.
Latin America consists of Spanish-speaking mainland states starting from Mexico in the north to Argentina in the south, as well as Spanish-speaking Caribbean countries.
Latin America is an emerging market in the view of gambling activity. It represents a great potential for the development of the gambling industry, with more than 1.5 billion people living there.
For a long time, gambling in Latin America has been banned, but the situation has been positively changing in recent decades.
Many investors and operators today invest in gambling business in the region. According to experts, the industry received a great boost in 2009 when the gambling business was prohibited in Russia and its representatives massively reoriented their interests to a free territory of Latin America.
In Latin America, a number of industry-wide activities were organized for the first time in the past year: the largest conference in Buenos Aires and the Brazilian Congress in Rio de Janeiro, which are scheduled to be held on an annual basis.
A few months ago (in late May and early June), the second largest gaming event in Latin America and the Caribbean, Juegos Miami 2017, was held to discuss the regulation of local gambling industry.
One of the factors influencing the growth rate of the gambling industry in the Latin American region is the level of Internet accessibility on modern platforms.
According to the Cisco company, Latin America is among the top three leaders in the growth rate of Internet traffic, which is 73% annually.
World's famous research companies publish statistics showing a high rate of growth in the gambling market in Latin American countries.
According to the report of Global Gaming Outlook 2015, where the PwC company was investigating the land based gambling market, in 2010 the total casino income in Latin America was $3.8 billion. In 2015, the figure increased by 8.7% (to $5.6 billion), and in 2017, it is projected to grow by about 10%.
The graph from the Global Gaming Outlook report below demonstrates how the gambling market size and its growth rate were changing between 2006 and 2015.
According to the Newzoo's report 2016, Latin America held only 4% of the total world share of the game market totaling in $4.1 billion. However, the annual growth rate is more than 20%, the highest worldwide figure.
Moreover, the Newzoo company, in its 2016 report, published information on the total size of the Latin American gaming market and the leading countries in the region.
Features of gambling in Latin America
Today, in almost all Latin American countries, online gambling is not subject to a legislative ban. This is another reason why Internet gambling in recent years has been gaining popularity at such a rapid pace.
The fact is that outdated laws prohibiting gambling in many Latin American countries were adopted at a time when online and gambling speeches were not even under way.
There is now a situation where the growing size of unregulated gambling activities have led to the evolvement of a shadow-gambling sector. Taking into account the enormous potential of the local industry, as well as the interest of international investors, many Latin American governments have begun to review gambling legislation.
States such as Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, etc., have already legalized online casinos within their territories. Other jurisdictions are going to follow the example. For example, in Brazil, the possibility of online casino legalizing has already been discussed. It is expected that gambling legislation will be amended accordingly.
Overall, however, there are still many issues in the region, as in any emerging market. For example, according to Newzoo's information, Argentina and Brazil are considered as leaders in total income of the game segment. However, these countries do not even have national gambling councils or gaming associations that would study market in detail and interact with legislators.
However, there have also been positive developments. In Colombia, Peru, Chile, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico and Panama, for example, there are national gambling councils, appropriate legislative frameworks and associations of gambling operators. As a result, gaming online projects are functioning and developing very successfully.
Legislation in the countries of Latin America
Latin America comprises 33 independent states, as well as 13 colonies and dependent territories. The experts of Slotegrator reviewed the current situation in the legislation of those countries that are currently considered as the most prospected territories for development of the gambling industry.
Mexico is a leading gambling market in Latin America, producing about $300 million income per year. The Mexicans enjoy gambling, and therefore, gambling establishments have always been very popular there.
Online gambling is legalized in Mexico, and operators must have a special license in order to operate there. Nevertheless, apart from the local ones, foreign gambling sites registered in offshore zones are also very popular. They account for the largest number of players from all over Latin America.
The reasons for this are that in Mexico local residents are prohibited from using the online casinos. Despite being legal, these online sites are targeted on more secure foreigners. The Mexicans therefore actively use foreign online casinos.
But the government already has plans to block all unlicensed operators because many of them are specifically designed for Mexican players.
New legislative initiatives in the area of gambling in Mexico are due to enter into force in August 2018. Such innovations have not yet been disclosed.
Unfortunately, in terms of gambling legalization and regulation, Brazil has not been developing as fast as it should have been. The ban on gambling in the country was introduced as early as 1946 and is still in force.
Today, Brazil legalized online bets on racing and poker, which is considered as intellectual games and are not subject to a legislative prohibition.
There is a terrible bureaucracy in the country that has the most negative impact on the industry. It has a growing shadow gambling, which is covered by corrupt officials and the police. As a result, the development of legitimate gambling in the country is severely hampered and investors are still reluctant to invest in gambling projects.
As a result of all this, foreign offshore online casino websites have become very popular among Brazilian players. According to the statistics, they're betting hundreds of millions of dollars every year.
Brazil was considering the possibility of legalizing online casinos, but had not yet rushed to modernize its laws in that area.
Online casinos are allowed in Argentina. Operators need to obtain a license from the local regulator to be allowed to work there.
Also, as in all Latin American countries, there are very popular offshore online casino sites, which are not yet restricted.
In Bolivia, gambling was banned until 2002. Gambling activities are now regulated by the National Lottery. Any operator in Bolivia can easily obtain permits for gambling activities.
There are no clear criteria for the operation of gambling sites in Venezuela. For example, the head of the State decides which online casino will obtain a license and which one has to be closed.
In 2011, a referendum was organized in Ecuador in which local residents voted to ban the gambling. That's why gambling is out of the law there.
In the autumn of 2016, Colombia issued the first "iGaming" license for gaming business in the Internet. This marked the beginning of a new era in the country's regulated gambling market. Aquila Global Group has obtained the powers of the regulating authority.
Together with these innovations, the decision to block more than three hundred unlicensed online casino sites providing services to Colombian players has come into effect.
In Uruguay, online casinos are permitted, and the State has an alliance with gambling operators.
The Dominican Republic is not yet the best region for investors in the gambling. There is a growing legislative basis for development, but the problem is that no one is monitoring its implementation. As a result, the shadow sector monopolized the market and legal operators could not work there.
In Cuba, gambling is prohibited and prosecuted.
Peru, Chile, Puerto Rico, Panama
All of these countries have relevant gambling legislation regulating the gambling market. This allows operators to work honestly and to develop their business. Both land based and online gaming clubs are operating successfully.
Central Latin America
The situation of legal gambling in central Latin America, with the exception of Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua, is not yet in favour of the operators. Bureaucracy and corruption in these countries contribute to a flourishing of the shadow sector.
To conduct gambling in the new region, online casino operators should consider tax rates and licence fees in order for the project to be financially reasonable.
The legislative and tax bases in most Latin American countries with regard to gambling are either outdated or imperfect. Let us consider some states where the income-tax rates for casino operators are clearly defined.
- Argentina. The 25% tax on slot machines was introduced in 2013, and in 2014, the remaining gambling taxes were increased up to 16% and 22%. As of January 1, 2017, the act raised the rate of corporate income tax applicable to gambling, from 35% to 41.5%. Gains exceeding 1200 Argentine pesos (USD 150) are taxed at a rate of 31%.
- Chile. Active casinos pay a tax amounted to 20% of gross income (GGR). There is also a value-added tax and a temporary monthly payment. In addition, an entry tax equivalent to 0.07 monthly tax unit (UTM) is levied.
- Mexico. A new tax system is anticipated in 2018, and the rates are not yet disclosed. The new approach is known to include a single tax rate at the federal level. Currently, the gambling tax is 30%.
- Peru. Land-based gambling establishments are taxed at 30% of net gaming income, while the rest of the gambling market participants pay the same tax, but from their gross revenue.
- Venezuela. Gambling operators pay from 30% up to 50% tax.
- Colombia is the first Latin American country to have nationwide regulation and taxation of gambling companies in the European style. At the end of 2016, the National Congress released online casino operators from value-added tax. Gambling companies are subject to a minimum tax of 17% of gross income and operators pay a special administrative fee of no more than 1%.
Prospects and outlook for development
The main reason why investors and online casino operators were avoiding the Latin American market was its political and economic instability. But in the last decade the situation has improved and the industry is showing positive developments. Legislation is changing, tax rates are developing, the Internet is improving, and the population becomes increasingly interested in online gambling.
The authorities of many countries are seeking to regulate the industry in order to regulate interests of the State and rights of the gambling operators. Much is being done to eliminate the shadow business.
Therefore, Latin America today has a very good potential for the development of the gambling industry. In addition, researches show that in recent times, the online casino has been in great demand among Latin Americans.
The Slotegrator's analysts believe that, with each passing year, Latin America will attract more and more major international gambling operators. This is because markets on other continents have become saturated, and some regions, such as the Middle East, are, for religious reasons, negative about gambling or demonstrating strong economic and political instability.
Read also: Online gambling in Africa
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