Legal online gambling is a hot topic worldwide. Authorities know that illegal online gambling means more profits for offshore online casinos, as they’ll miss out on the much-needed revenue. Uruguay realized this fact soon enough, hence the latest push by legislatures to formally legalize the activity.
On August 16, 2020, the Chamber of Senators voted to legalize online gambling in the Latin American states. This move follows Uruguay’s decision to ban all offshore gambling sites in the country in 2017. The House of Representatives will now discuss and vote on the bill, bringing the country closer to legal online gambling.
If the Uruguay House of Representatives passes the bill, it will pave the way for the National Directorate of Casinos to start vetting and issuing licenses to online betting sites. This Ministry of Economy and Finance branch currently regulates all brick-and-mortar gaming activities in the country.
The legal online gambling craze comes with the problem of gambling addiction . For this reason, the latest Uruguay gambling bill seeks to introduce the creation of a gambling problem fund. If passed, the DGC (Directorate of Casinos) will direct 5% to 8% of its gross collections towards preventing and treating problem gambling in the country.
Meanwhile, harsh financial penalties await those who will breach any clause of the bill. If found guilty, operators will pay UYU$10,000 (€245) to a UYU$100,000 (€2,450) fine. That’s not all; the operator in question can also lose their operating license if they commit a serious offense. The new bill will become law a day after being approved by the country’s Executive Power.
Cipriani Group has threatened to pull the plug on the ongoing resort-casino project following the plans to legalize online gaming in Uruguay. The company, owned by an Italian businessman, is building a US$200 casino hotel in Punta del Este. But it’s an open secret that Cipriani has been against legalizing online gaming. Unfortunately, the bill did not address most of his concerns.
Addressing the General Assembly in Montevideo, Grupo Cipriani’s representatives claimed that the proposed bill has many loopholes that future game providers could exploit. Their main concern is whether regulated online casinos will be taxed with the same revenues as land-based casinos. Cipriani maintains that the bill will put them at a disadvantage, considering brick-and-mortar casinos have more overhead costs.
Cipriani also wants Uruguay’s Treasury Commission to clarify its definition of online games of chance and online games. Currently, these two activities are regulated separately by the National Directorate of Lotteries and Pools and the National Directorate of Casinos. They claim that this can leave them in a “grey” area, not knowing where to be answerable. Unless the law addresses their concerns, Cipriani SA may pull out of Uruguay altogether.
The Cipriani project will be a significant investment in Punta del Este, promising to transform the region into the “Las Vegas” of Latin America. The government termed it an attractive project that will boost Uruguay’s tourism sector and its future gambling tax collection.
As said initially, the Uruguay government banned all offshore betting sites in favor of state-licensed operators. Today, La Banca is the only legal entity providing online gambling services, especially sports betting. Online gamers can access sports betting, lottery, and virtual sports betting services via La Banca’s Supermatch brand. On the other hand, casino players can play bingo, poker, blackjack, roulette, and slot machines at Uruguayan land-based casinos.
But what do all these mean to Uruguay's online casino players? The good news is that many regulated offshore casinos continue to accept Uruguayan players. Most of these online casinos are legal in the UK, US, Curacao, Gibraltar, Malta, and Columbia. They offer a rich selection of online casino games, including live games by software providers like Evolution Gaming, Microgaming, NetEnt, and more. But overall, online casino gaming is illegal in Uruguay until the bill becomes law.
Expecting the new laws will come with new taxation structures for gambling activities in Uruguay. After all, public online gambling will be a new thing in the market. But as of now, state-approved operators like sports betting shops, racetracks, gaming halls, and casinos part with 0.75% of their gross turnover or bets placed. Before the 2017 ban, this rate was 10%.
As for casino patrons, prizes from horse racing and games of chance 71x less than the initial bet are exempted from taxation. However, winning over $372,000 attracts a 12% tax. But overall, the Uruguay gambling taxation law doesn’t touch anywhere on online betting winnings, including at the state-licensed Supermatch.
The introduction of online casino regulations means that Uruguay will soon have a fully-regulated gambling market. Remember that online casinos are growing globally, allowing gamers to play their favorite casino games without stepping inside a building. But until the bill becomes law, sign up at a regulated online casino and take action. There’s no report of arrest or prosecution of any Uruguayan online casino player yet.