The online gaming market in Argentina: lessons learned and challenges for this 2023

 After presenting the success stories of the City and Province of Buenos Aires, in this second part of the ESPECIAL INFOPLAY, we look for some notable elements from the other Argentine provinces that already have companies operating (Córdoba, Entre Ríos, Santa Fe...) or that are about to do so, as in the case of Mendoza.

Some of the peculiarities of gambling legislation in Argentina have already been addressed in the first part of the ESPECIAL INFOPLAY about the Province and City of Buenos Aires.

And now it's time to continue reporting on specific cases of provinces that have regulated online gambling and that can help to understand the current situation and the future of online gambling as a whole.

In any case, on the horizon, there is a desire on the part of Argentine operators and players: interprovincial gambling. A reality that, after many years, was achieved with the most important public lottery game in Argentina and with already 35 years of existence, Quini 6, but at the level of casino games, poker, and sports betting on the internet, it still seems very far away.

Next, we address some specific cases of regulation processes that will help us understand where Argentina stands in terms of legalizing online gambling...

As we saw when discussing the province and city of Buenos Aires, politics is closely related to the way the gambling sector is regulated in general and online gambling in particular.

In Argentina, due to the legacy of Peronism and the current struggle of powers (Kirchnerism vs. anti-Kirchnerism) associated with center-left and center-right (liberal) visions, the ability of both currents to govern at the provincial level will define the approach to opening and legalizing online gambling:
  • Partido Justicialista - Justicialist Party / Frente de Todos: center-left / peronist populism
  • Tiodos por el Cambio - Together for Change: center-right / liberalism

For example, the center-left party (Front of All) governs in the Province of Buenos Aires, and the right-wing alternative (Together for Change) governs in the City, coinciding with greater restrictions for the Province and more activity in online gambling in the City.

In the case of the Province of Córdoba, governed by Juan Schiaretti (Justicialist Party), the situation is perhaps the most illustrative of the difficulty of creating regulated markets at the territorial level. Despite having the green light to offer online gambling licenses, residents of the province's capital (Córdoba) will be prevented from participating in this regulated environment, as there has been a municipal ordinance for two decades that does not allow online gambling.

Mendoza is one of the jurisdictions that have followed the example of the way the online sector is regulated in the Province of Buenos Aires, limiting the number of operators to a maximum of licenses. If there were 7 in the Province of Buenos Aires, only 5 permits have been offered in Mendoza.

Up to 10 operators applied for these licenses in 2022. And of these, the Provincial Institute of Games and Casinos (IPJyC) has awarded five licenses to operate online in the Province of Mendoza in 2023. Operators that have been born from the union of multinationals and local partners, as we saw in the success stories of the Province and City of Buenos Aires.

Super 7, RushBet, BPlay, Codere, and BetWarrior will thus be the five brands that will operate in 2023 in the fourth province in terms of GDP and population in the country, one of the most booming in tourism.

The Province of Santa Fe, the third province in GDP and population in Argentina, has well-known gambling establishments. This would be the case of the City Center Rosario, the hotel and casino where Messi and Roccuzzo celebrated their wedding. Due to its economic importance and being a river port and logistics center with a rich offer of gambling casinos, the regulation process of online gambling began to help the recovery of Casinos Santa Fe, City Center, and Melincué after the COVID pandemic.

It was through a decree law that the Santa Fe Lottery was given the power to authorize the concessionary companies of the three provincial casinos to exploit the online modality. The beginning of this regulated market dates back to September 2020.

The operator Bplay, the online gambling platform of Casino Santa Fe and Casino Melincué, is the leader of the provincial market, operating through the site under license Nº9200/Resolution Nª163.

As we saw when discussing Buenos Aires, the Boldt Group is behind Bplay.

The Province of Misiones, also in the TOP-10 of provinces with the highest GDP and with 1.3 million inhabitants, represents a different case from most regulated territories in the country. In October 2019, the Provincial Institute of Lotteries and Casinos Society of the State (IPLYC) accepted the proposal to have a single online gambling operator in the province of Misiones:

Thus, until today (April 2023), is the only operator that can offer sports betting and casino games in Misiones, being controlled by the Provincial Lottery and Casinos Institute of Misiones. Its genesis dates back to 2015 with the MisionBet project, which at that time was presented as the proposal to offer online gambling through the union of the owners of land-based casinos based in Misiones.

The province of Tucumán generated a lot of international interest for wanting to levy special taxes on both online gambling operators (then unregulated) and audiovisual platforms like Netflix.

With Juan Manzur as governor (known for being the Minister of Health of Cristina Fernández de Kirschner, who enacted the 2011 Anti-Tobacco Law), he leads for the second time the fifth province in terms of GDP and population in the country, with San Miguel de Tucumán as the capital.

The Gambling Regulatory Agency is the Caja Popular de Ahorros of the province, and similarly to what we saw with the Province of Misiones and GuazuBet, it is a public management company that operates under the brand Although dating back to 2010, it is one of the operators that have best adapted to current times, including products such as virtual sports and facilitating top-ups from physical points.

Although not one of the provinces with the highest GDP, Formosa, located in the northeast of the country, is the 17th most populous province with 600,000 inhabitants. In terms of gambling, it has historical relevance since is considered the first 100% Argentine online betting brand thanks to a provincial license (370/2005 from the Social Assistance Institute of the province of Formosa.

However, precisely due to the lack of legal development in the country, the license was revoked in 2008.

Currently, it is still the Social Assistance Institute that regulates the sector in the province, although the only online games allowed in 2023 are those related to public lotteries through the domain, so it is not considered a province with de facto regulation of internet gambling.

In conclusion, although an interprovincial online gambling regulation might seem like a pipe dream, there are indeed possibilities to establish specific agreements between provinces, allowing licensed operators to offer their services in other provinces that are part of such agreements.

In any case, operators such as Bplay are working efficiently with their different licenses in provinces like Santa Fe, CABA, Buenos Aires, or Entre Ríos, while companies like Betsson do not hesitate to bid for further growth in regulated markets such as the province of Córdoba, once established in the City and Province of Buenos Aires.
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