LATAM Gambling Industry Expects Unprecedented Growth in 2023
The potential for generating significant revenue in Latin America has caught the attention and focus of both the regulated and unregulated online gambling industry.
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Countries with favorable regulations in the pipeline are anticipating significant growth in the near future, while those that have already regulated online casinos and sportsbooks are experiencing steady growth. In contrast, countries that have yet to regulate the industry are witnessing more unpredictable growth.
The approaches to regulating online gambling vary across the continent. Some countries, such as Ecuador and Brazil, prohibit all forms of gambling except for state lotteries and skill games (with poker being classified as a game of skill in Brazil). This prohibition extends to online gambling in many cases. Other countries lack official regulation or prohibition of online gambling.
Bolivia and Nicaragua include online gambling provisions within the broader regulatory frameworks for the gaming industry. In Argentina, individual provinces are responsible for enforcing laws related to online gambling.
Several nations, including Bolivia and Brazil, are contemplating or implementing changes to their online gambling regulations. Brazil and Bolivia have introduced legislative proposals that are currently under review. Meanwhile, Colombia has revealed plans for an anti-money laundering measure. Although Brazil is often referred to as the dormant powerhouse of Latin America, there are several other markets that iGaming operators are seriously considering.
Argentina, the fourth-largest country in Latin America with a population of almost 45 million and the second-largest economy, has a province-by-province gambling regulation system. Operators can only offer their services to residents of the province where they are authorized to operate, with virtually all forms of gambling allowed in provinces that have chosen to regulate.
The online gaming and betting sector is a significant contributor to the country's economy, generating an estimated $2.4 billion in annual revenue. To recover from the 2020 crisis, the government has increased the federal tax on online gambling from 2% to 5%. This tax is separate from the provincial and city taxes. The province of Buenos Aires taxes operators at 25% of their gross gaming revenue, while the city of Buenos Aires taxes operators at 10% of GGR.
Gambling advertising is also regulated in the country, with advertisements prohibited from featuring or targeting minors, and must not be deceitful or misleading. Only authorized operators can advertise their services in the country (the same is true in North America where igaming and online casino sites are heavily regulated.)
In 2021, the regulatory authority for the province of Buenos Aires, IPLyC, launched its licensing regime and formed partnerships with foreign operators such as William Hill, Bet365, and 888 Holdings, along with domestic companies.
Brazil, the most populous and largest country in Latin America, has been labeled a "sleeping giant" that is long overdue to awaken. While most forms of gambling are currently prohibited, a commission was established in 2016 to create regulations for the sports betting sector. Although gambling legislation was passed in 2018, implementation has been postponed. Recently, Bolsonaro announced that he will finally sign the regulation.
Lotteries in Brazil are controlled by Caixa, a monopoly, while jockey clubs still offer offline horserace betting.
When the new betting regulations are implemented, Brazil will have the largest land-based and online sports betting market on the continent. With a population exceeding 200 million (of which around 63% have mobile technology access) and a nationwide love for sports, particularly football, Brazil is a golden opportunity for sportsbook operators seeking to expand into South America.
The entire iGaming industry is closely monitoring the situation in Brazil, and for good reason; it is expected that the country's sports betting market will be worth over $1 billion within five years of becoming regulated.
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In March 2022, Chile's Ministry of Finance proposed a bill to regulate online gambling. Currently, licensed land-based casinos in Chile are prohibited from offering their services online. The proposed regulations aim to increase tax revenues and ensure player safety by permitting casino gaming and sports betting.
Sports betting is currently a state monopoly in Chile, and online casinos are illegal. However, the new legislation is expected to permit an unlimited number of licenses. Potential operators will be required to pay an annual fee of $70,000 to Chile's national casino gaming authority and be taxed 20% of the GGR (gross gaming revenue).
If the bill to regulate online gambling is passed, Chile will join the growing list of Latin American markets that are opening up to operators.
With a population of over 50 million, the fourth-largest economy on the continent, a mobile penetration rate of approximately 56%, and a well-documented love for football, Colombia is one of the largest markets in Latin America and presents a significant opportunity for online gambling businesses, particularly online sportsbooks.
In 2016, Colombia became the first country in Latin America to regulate online gambling, and the gaming and betting market has been growing steadily since licensing began in 2017. Almost all forms of gambling, both land-based and online, are now legal in the country following the 2016 regulation of the online sector.
The industry is experiencing remarkable growth, with an estimated GGR of almost $300 million in the Colombian gambling market in 2021. In 2022, state revenue increased by 18% compared to 2021, amounting to $175 million.
Mexico is considered a lucrative market for online casino and sportsbook operators, with a population of over 120 million people and an estimated 60% mobile penetration rate, coupled with the second-strongest economy in Latin America.
Most forms of gambling are regulated in Mexico, with the exception of land-based card rooms and unregulated fantasy sports. The Federal Gaming and Raffles Law of 1947 governs the gambling industry, with full regulations being introduced in 2004. In 2021, new guidelines on advertising, bonuses, and player loyalty policies were published.
Online casino and sportsbook operators are required to have authorization and partner with a land-based license holder, but no additional license is needed.