Argentina’s Largest Province Supports Online Casinos, Sportsbooks

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2019 | Written by April Bergman
Argentina’s Largest Province Supports Online Casinos, Sportsbooks

The Buenos Aires province in Argentina is moving towards a more permissive attitude towards gambling, if its 2019 budget is any indication. The budget includes provisions for legal online gambling, including desktop and mobile betting on sports and horse racing.

Gov. Maria Eugenia Vidal, who governs over 16 million of the country’s 43 million residents, sees gambling as a way to raise revenues for the Social Development and Integration Fund. Like most politicians around the globe, Gov. Vidal is loathe to raise taxes on income, property, or sales.

Along with revenues from taxes on online gambling, the Buenos Aires budget calls for a 2% tax on player’s winnings at casino, bingo, or arcade games.

According to the logic of such a tax, such players are happy to win and would not mind the extra contribution in taxes. For serious gamblers, the 2% is a cost that makes it harder to break even or get ahead, even in forms of gambling that require a degree of skill like poker, blackjack, and sports betting.

PRO Party Supports Gambling

The decision to support gambling is a reversal of sorts for Maria Eugenia Vidal and her center-right party, the Propuesta Republicana (Republican Proposal) or “PRO” Party. When Vidal took office in 2015, she was an outspoken critic to gaming in arcades or casinos.

The loosening of gambling laws has widespread support in the Buenos Aires province, though, and therefore should have support in the state legislature, if Gov. Vidal can bring along the conservative members of the PRO Party caucus.

Argentina Gambling Laws

Argentina has a long history of gambling, though successive governments would ban activities and then liberalize them, depending on the type of administration or regime was in power. Argentina legalized betting on horse racing as early as 1812, when the country was still under Spanish rule.

The Peninsular War was raging in Spain at the time, so after the May Revolution of 1810 in and around Buenos Aires, the Spanish crown allowed the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata (around Buenos Aires) a degree of autonomy in preparation for gradual independence. Thus, gambling legalization was one of the first acts of Buenos Aires authorities after gaining a degree of political power.

After Argentina declared independence in 1816, Argentine gambling remained largely in a gray area. In the early days of independent Argentina, the governor of Buenos Aires was the leading figure in the country. One governor, Juan Miguel de Rosas, was the leading authority in Argentina from 1829 to 1852. This was a time of civil war between unitarians, who thought Buenos Aires should lead the other states, and federalists, who believed each state should have authority in its jurisdiction.

Argentina National Lottery

From 1862 to 1880, Argentina was dominated by liberal forces. During this time, the government approved and built the Argentine Hippodrome, a large horse track and casino that still exists to this day. The first widespread lottery was passed by Law 2989 in 1893, which gave Buenos Aires special rights in organizing a lottery.

In 1895, the Buenos Aires lottery became the National Lottery under Law 3313, which resolved a dispute between the Buenos Aires province and the national government. The National Lottery proved popular, so by the year 1900, the country has 520 lottery kiosks. It had only 120 only 5 years before.

Mara del Plata Casino

The first casino in Argentina was the Mara del Plata, which was built in the Hotel Bristol in 1889. During the “Infamous Decade” of the 1930s, casinos like the Gran Hotel (1936) and Casino Central (1936) opened. The Infamous Decade was an era of political repression which followed a military coup led to rule by the Argentine Patriotic League. (The coup overthrew the governing radical party, which had governed in the 1910’s and 1920’s, but which became unpopular in the wake of the Great Depression.)

During the 1930s, the national government gained greater control over gambling. After the Revolution of ’43, in which military officers staged a coup to keep Argentina neutral during World War II, the government allowed the sell of National Benefit Lottery tickets (1944). These lotto tickets were sold in casinos and recreation centers.

Modern Casinos in Argentina

After Juan Peron fell from power in 1955 due to the Revolución Libertadora (Liberating Revolution) military coup, a period of casino development began. During the long radical period of the 1960s and even once Juan Peron returned to power in 1973, casino developers continued to open gaming houses.

Big name casinos like City Center Rosario (the largest casino in South America), Casino Iguazo, Casino Flamingo, Rambla Casino, and Trilenium Casino date from 1955 to 1990. In the same period, the The Hippodrome of Palermo and San Isidro Hippodrome — the largest racetracks in South America — also were built.

Online Gambling in Buenos Aires

Through it all, the Buenos Aires province and the national government have vied for control of gambling in the central province of Argentina. Even as late as 2016, the National Lottery S.E. (Loteria Nactional) brokered a deal with the Betting Games Institute of the Autonomous City of Buenos Aires to handle lottery gaming.

Thus, Gov. Maria Eugenia Vidal’s decision to legalize online gambling in her province is a huge decision. Not only does it include 40% of Argentinian residents, but it also has the force of law that seldom follows a leader of a province around the globe.