Online gambling, while officially regulated in the Autonomous City of Buenos Aires (CABA) in late February, is struggling to get off the ground on two fronts; firstly the health crisis and secondly opposition from the Association of the Personnel of Racecourses Agencies Gambling and Related (Aphara). 

LOTBA, the local gaming authority, had begun the licensing process for online gambling and sports betting in Buenos Aires just days following its regulation. But with the COVID-19 crisis bringing proceedings to a standstill, that debut remains off the agenda. Now, online gambling is coming under fire from Aphara which has warned that its debut in CABA would put 2,000 jobs at risk.

Diego Quiroga, head of the association, said: “These policies promote a modality that benefits a few foreign companies under a tax regime that is based on unfair competition. They don’t generate genuine employment like land-based entities.”

The mandatory quarantine established by President Alberto Fernández in March forced lottery agencies, racetracks and casinos to suspend their activities. All gambling modalities in Buenos Aires have been affected by the crisis, as none of them are reporting any other type of income.

Despite supporting the quarantine to protect health, Quiroga pointed out that although the president is in favor of measures to prevent layoffs, the CABA government encourages online gambling which, he claimed, leaves hundreds of families who depend on land-based gambling on the brink of the abyss.

He said: “It’s unfair that the local lottery wants to replace employees with online platforms that don’t generate employment,” commenting further that land-based companies are the ones that create genuine jobs, while online gambling is “unfair and discriminatory”.

The licenses to operate online games in CABA will run for five years, but LOTBA could extend them with previous authorization. Any company can participate in the process on internet platforms and mobile applications. Poker, bingo, sports betting, betting on cultural events, virtual casinos and more will be allowed.

In addition, those interested in obtaining a license, both local and international companies, must pay an administrative fee of $500. They will also have to prove that they have more than two years of experience and a net worth of $370,000, as well as certifications from accredited laboratories from LOTBA.