If Argentina’s city of Buenos Aires gets its way, the Casino de Puerto Madero will soon have a sports gambling license. The city’s government is pushing a plan that would allow the casino to launch an online sportsbook as a means to recuperate revenue lost due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, some lawmakers are looking to stop the project from moving forward, arguing that the casino’s ties to a controversial figure would be a black spot on the country’s gambling industry.
Argentina has had a difficult time grappling with the subject of online and sports gambling. Buenos Aires was ready to issue licenses this past February, but retail operators stepped in to subvert those plans. Still, Buenos Aires pushed forward, fueled by the necessity to find new sources of revenue in the wake of the COVID-19 debacle. According to some reports, the city could earn as much as $6.8 million in tax revenue by launching legalized sports gambling.
For the city to be able to give Casino de Puerto Madero a license to operate a sportsbook, lawmakers are pushing Buenos Aires to ensure it adheres to federal guidelines. These include the payment of an “administrative tax” of $30,000 and proof of net worth of at least $25 million. In most cases, operators will also have to show they have been involved with the gaming sector for a minimum of two years.
The ruling government party in Buenos Aires, the Juntos por el Cambio (Together for Change), supports giving the casino a license; however, some local lawmakers are trying to put additional conditions on the deal. Cristóbal López, the former owner of the casino, is not a popular person with certain legislators, and they want to ensure that he has no ability to get involved with online gambling of any kind. López has been mired in controversy for the past several years, alleged to have ties to money laundering and claims of collusion. He has also faced scrutiny for dealings in Brazil, where he was able to purchase an oil refinery at 28% less than its original value.
As a result, López is persona non grata in many circles, and lawmakers are concerned that the Casino Czar might try to worm his way back into the gambling scene by getting involved with online sports gambling at the casino he previously owned. For Buenos Aires to issue a license to the Casino de Puerto Madero, the city will have to prove that it can keep López out. The lawmakers are also pushing for more restrictions related to sports gambling ads and other measures they feel are necessary to keep the market clean.
So far, a total of six gambling operators have requested to become part of the sports gambling industry in Buenos Aires, and they are all in the process of getting approved. However, if things go well, the Casino de Puerto Madero could be the first.