888 Runs Afoul of Buenos Aires Authorities

16 April 2009
A prosecutor in the autonomous federal city of Buenos Aires, Argentina, has threatened legal action against 888 Holdings because the operator's dot-com and dot-ar Web sites are available, illegally, to residents there.

Verónica De Muro, a lawyer with VDM Consultores in Montevideo, Uruguay, explained to IGamingNews Thursday that in the federal city, online gambling is prohibited.

Existing laws in Buenos Aires -- Articles 116, 117 and 118 of the city's Código Contravencional -- dictate that no gaming operator from another province may offer or promote online gambling services there. Doing so can lead to arrest, jail time and fines.

Ms. De Muro said that the Buenos Aires prosecutor, Luis Duacastella Arbizu, contends 888 broke those laws and is demanding both Web sites be made inaccessible to city residents.

The company's dot-com Web site is still accessible by computer in the United States, though the dot-ar site is not.

It is not known in which province 888 held licensure, or whether it intends to do battle in court in Buenos Aires. A company spokesman declined comment when contacted by IGamingNews Thursday.

The Buenos Aires authorities last year took similar action against Bwin Interactive Entertainment A.G. and Victor Chandler. Both companies held provincial licensure with the Provincial Institute of Lotteries and Casinos, the regulatory authority in Misiones Province.

In an earlier interview, Ms. De Muro said Victor Chandler had launched a successful court challenge in Buenos Aires, and that its sites are operational there.

As of Thursday, Victor Chandler's dot-ar site was accessible from the United States, as was Bwin's dot-ar site. It is not known whether Bwin also won in court.

Last July, the Argentine daily La Nación reported Buenos Aires' mayor, Mauricio Macri, was "studying the possibility of regulation in the federal city."

Little to no news has emerged since about Mr. Macri's reported plan.

Carlos Fonseca, an attorney with Chehade Fonseca Servat Suárez & Varela in Lima, Peru, told IGamingNews in July that Mr. Macri may not proceed with the politically unpopular plan because he intends to run for president in two years.

Mr. Macri served formerly as president of the Boca Juniors football club, one of the largest and most popular professional sporting clubs in Argentina.

In December 2006, he entered into an ill-fated $13 million sponsorship agreement with Bwin. After two games the deal was cancelled due to a deluge of bad press.

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