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Looking to control gambling in Uruguay

by Camila Cardoso Lanfranco Translated from the Spanish


In Uruguay more & more people are playing online-poker, but the country has no legislation for it; While Live Poker is legal& played in the nation’s casinos. Live Gambling is regulated in Uruguay by the ‘Dirección General de Casinos’ aninstitution working with‘Dirección Nacional de Loterías y Quinielas’ that’s committed to measured & responsible gambling there. They are responsible for operating and legislating all of the gambling & for monitoring and verifying the results and prizes in Uruguay.The current legislation does not include online-poker so theoretically it is not allowed as it is not government regulated, but because of the absence of any legislation, online-poker continues to operate on the premise that everything that is not banned by law must not be unlawful.

Therefore some years ago Uruguay started working on a bill to ratify the state’s monopoly & regulation of gambling at all levels, from local neighbourhood bars to the world-wide web. The last draft of this is awaiting approval, or not, in the ‘Parlamento Nacional’. It proposes that all betting games including online poker aimed at the Uruguay public have to be licensed directly by the state, with a separate department responsible for control and supervision ensuring best operating practises & to also avoid any possible conflicts of interest that could arise if the same body were to be responsible for both issuing licenses & policing the industry.

The ‘Administración Nacional de Casinos y Juegos de Apuesta del Estado’ will be responsible for the regulation of gambling including electronic & remote gambling, it will issue online poker licenses within the country & will replace the current ‘Dirección General de Casinos’. The supervision of gambling in Uruguay be undertaken by the ‘Dirección Nacional de Contralor de Apuestas y Juegos de Azar’ which replaces the current ‘Dirección Nacional de Loterías y Quinielas’.

Thus the state monopoly on all gambling will be reinforced, the government will have the power to prohibit inappropriate games, grant licenses & punish offenders. All management, operation, financing and practice of gambling which has not been approved by the state body will be prohibited, including the Internet.

These proposed arrangements have been seen as both positive & negative developments by the Uruguayan public depending on their interest.

Several psychologists criticize the new bill & consider it too liberal. New regulations are important & very necessary for the country, especially those concerning on-line poker because young people can easily become addicted to gambling without realizing it. They considered it very dangerous from the viewpoint that is traditionally very rare to find teenagers in a bricks & mortar Casino room, firstly because access for minors is prohibited, 18 years old being the minimum age allowed for casino entry in Uruguay & secondly because traditional casinos are not a place they would feel comfortable spending long hours in.

On the contrary over the Internet, they can play from their own bedrooms whenever they want, without any control. They may even be gambling as minors, as young people can use other peoples’ information, whether family or friends to open their online poker accounts.

Therefore professionals dealing with gambling addiction believe it is essential that these games are under the tight regulation of the State. For their part, Uruguayan online poker players feel that any adjustment to the status quo by the government would adversely affect the many people who play regularly & earn money through playing poker.

The new law legalising online poker has not yet been approved, but because Uruguayans play with foreign online poker operators, and the country does not have the power of the United States, & some other countries, to demand these operators stop allowing their citizens to play on their websites online poker in Uruguay is continuing regardless.

It will be require a great of effort for Uruguay to succeed in regulating online poker. Currently the authorities are dealing with various possible measures to control it and will keep trying to combat the ‘illegal’ gambling.

Getting the potential tax revenue from online-poker and claiming back the State’s lost monopoly in the country is a priority even if it is a struggle which at first seems lost.

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