Victor Chandler exits Argentina; Bwin not far behind?

MaradonaAfter three years of legal wrangling and bureaucratic frustration, Victor Chandler has officially exited the Argentine market. The UK gambling mainstay announced that its local subsidiary had concluded operations with its Argentine partner as of Feb. 1, and that the gambling license issued in the Argentine province of Misiones was being taken up by Sports Interaction (based out of Kahnawake).

Victor Chandler’s problems principally stemmed from questions of jurisdiction – specifically, whether the license issued by the authorities in Misiones allowed the company to accept bets from punters located outside the province. The company ended up in municipal court battling the Argentine Football Association and other groups protesting VC’s right to offer services to citizens in Buenos Aires. The country’s national lottery outfit, Loteria Nacional, also brought suit against VC, claiming the bookmaker was in violation of federal legislation granting the state-owned lottery exclusive rights to operate interprovincial sports-betting games across the country.

Just in case UK residents were starting to believe this was the Maradona ‘Hand Of God’ redux, the regulatory obstructionism is not directed solely at English companies. Austrian bookmaker Bwin has faced similar challenges since receiving its own operating license from Misiones. In 2008, Bwin’s Argentine site was blocked for five months by local authorities, until Bwin obtained a court injunction against the blocking. But the regulatory picture is no clearer today than two years ago, and Bwin’s future presence in the market is far from guaranteed.

Attempting to take advantage of the confusion, Loteria Nacional has been lobbying hard to expand its pools-betting service into a fully-fledged sportsbook, but opposition politicians have so far prevented the state-owned company from taking that step. These same politicians have also introduced a bill that would ban all advertising and payment processing activities related to online gambling.