At Least Four Argentine Provinces Considering Prohibition, Lawyer Says

24 October 2008

The lack of legislation regulating -- or prohibiting, as the case may be -- online gambling in Argentina has created an unclear picture of exactly what operators can do in the country.

Convoluted reports this month have indicated that Liliana Piani, a deputy in the lower house in the Buenos Aires Parliament, has drafted legislation that would force Internet service providers to block access to Internet gambling Web sites on penalty of hefty fines.

Ms. Piani's reason for drafting the law is to "prohibit the provision of such services and to safeguard society . . . and to avoid production of serious harm or danger against certain fundamental values, such as public order, public health and the protection of minors," according to local media reports.

Meanwhile, in the Santa Fe province, Luis Alberto Mauri, who is a member the Santa Fe provincial government's lower house, introduced an amendment to the Code of Offenses that would punish I.S.P.s who do not block access to Internet gambling Web sites.

Eugenio J. Bonelli, an Argentina-based partner with the Inter-American Institute on Betting and Gaming Law, told IGamingNews via telephone today that at least four provinces are preparing legislation to ban online gambling, including the provinces of Buenos Aires and Santa Fe.

However, he said, the provinces of Misiones and Corrientes are closest to introducing actual laws.

At the national level, a bill is currently under consideration in the Senate for the regulation of online gambling, VerĂ³nica De Muro, a gaming lawyer at Uruguay-based VDM Consultores, told IGN via e-mail.

Meanwhile, in the autonomous city of Buenos Aires, which is independent of the provinces and the national government, there is a prohibition on Internet betting.

However, Mauricio Macri, the mayor of Buenos Aires, proposed modifying existing law to allow a licensing and regulation scheme for online betting within the city. But the city is quite far from even introducing a bill, much less passing a law, according to Mr. Bonelli.

Ms. De Muro said the absence of Argentine I-gaming regulations led authorities in some provinces to begin granting licenses, while other provinces are waiting to follow suit.

Bwin Interactive Entertainment A.G., the Austria-based operator, and Victor Chandler International of the United Kingdom, were both licensed by the Provincial Institute of Lotteries and Casinos -- the licensing authority in Misiones -- until both were ordered to shut down their respective Argentine Web sites this year for violating federal law.

The federal law in question dictates that no gaming operator from another province may offer its services in the city of Buenos Aires, where Internet betting, again, is prohibited.

Victor Chandler was subsequently ordered to block its sites from the province of Buenos Aires. However, Ms. De Muro said Victor Chandler succeeded in fighting the courts in Buenos Aires and the sites remain operational.

"I view this ruling as an important precedent for future cases that may arise in Argentina," Ms. De Muro said.

More on the legislative developments to come.

Emily Swoboda is the senior staff writer at IGamingNews. She lives in St. Louis, Mo.