Gambling in Argentina has an intimate relationship with local and national politics, according to an experienced entrepreneur in the sector, “The sector is complicated, there are businessmen closely linked to political power, many interests are mixed and negotiations are not transparent.” Despite this, in times of economic difficulty the tax revenue generated by the sector is crucial for local governments.
The Province of Buenos Aires is the largest of Argentina’s twenty-three provinces and is governed by leftist, Axel Kicillof. In contrast, the City of Buenos Aires is an autonomous city led by the centre-right mayor, Horacio Rodríguez Larreta.
Following similar moves across Latin America, the legislature of the City of Buenos Aires recently approved online gambling (physical gambling already existed) after extensive negotiations around licensing. In the end, primarily for budgetary reasons, the authorisation was extensive, although not absolute.
Will the online shift extend to the larger Province, where only in-person gambling is currently permitted?
Our sources report that there are ongoing conversations around authorising online gambling in the Province but the sector has had a chequered history with the local government.
During the previous centre-right administration of María Eugenia Vidal, the gambling sector was concerned about the manifest animosity of the governor towards them. Ultimately, financial pressures reversed Vidal’s plans to restrict the sector.
Leftist governments have historically always endorsed the presence and development of the leisure sector as it represents a very important source of income, but a former Cirsa executive explains the current situation, “Governor Kicillof does not like, nor personally engage with the sector but the income from it is important. There are ongoing contracts that will be respected, but the market believes that winning new concessions will be hard.”
“Governor Kicillof does not like nor personally engage with the sector but the income from it is important.”
Former Cirsa Executive, Argentina
Furthermore, it is politically difficult for the government to promote online gambling, an industry consultant explains, “Online gambling was a Macri project so the government won’t promote it and growth will not be a strong as it could be, but their financial pressures mean they won’t block it either.”
“Online gambling was a Macri project so the government won’t promote it and growth will not be a strong as it could be.”
Gambling industry consultant, Argentina
It seems that Argentina, perhaps reluctantly, is set to open up to online gambling which will represent an important growth opportunity for the major firms in the country such as CODERE and CIRSA.