Esports looks to have emerged as a leading light amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and a near total shutdown of land-based activities and live sports. With physical operations notable by their absence, the last few months have shown the importance of having electronic channels to generate new income. 

As part of an attempt to find new sources of revenue, the Gaming Commission of Puerto Rico has announced that Gaming Laboratories International (GLI) has been selected to advise on the regulation of esports operations on the island.

The move follows recent remarks from the Puerto Rican Sports and Video Games Association (PRSVGA) to the effect that the island’s income has plummeted and that the online gambling industry should be regarded as a viable economic option.

According to Omar Marrero Díaz, executive director of the Financial Advisory Authority and Fiscal Agency (AAFAF), “GLI will assist the Commission in drafting the regulations, and will provide advisory services in regards to all industries or activities under its offering, which includes sports betting, fantasy sports and electronic games.” 

In addition, GLI will use processes from other American jurisdictions to develop the regulations as an example.

Karen Sierra-Hughes, Director of Government Relations at GLI, told SBC Americas: “We are grateful to have been selected by the AAFAF Evaluation Committee as the firm to provide the regulatory consultancy for the new sports, esports and fantasy sports´ wagering industry. 

“GLI is honored to be part of this historic milestone for the Puerto Rican gaming industry and we are excited to work with the Gaming Commission in the establishment of the regulatory framework that will allow the creation of more revenue for the government and more opportunities to maintain a sustainable and responsible industry.”

The director highlighted that Puerto Rico has been a pioneer and role model on land-based gaming regulation, and that they “envision the same for this new industry opening soon.”

According to government estimates, esports could bring around $87m in profits to the Puerto Rican government in the first five years of operations.

The PRSVGA had asked Governor Wanda Vázquez Garced to include esports in the first round of businesses that could be allowed to reopen during the pandemic, to generate new revenue for the island. 

The association suggested that an emergency regulation might be approved to authorize esports, taking into account that the land-based sector is not operating and that online activity has increased. Selecting GLI to advise the government is the first step to establish a viable industry in the territory.

Once the regulation is approved, and following Law 81-2019, the process to grant licenses to suppliers and operators will begin. The authorities will evaluate all legal, financial and technical aspects of the regulation, as well as the necessary guidelines to guarantee player protection and prevent money laundering.

Manuel Laboy Rivera, secretary of the Department of Economic Development and Commerce (DDEC), commented: “We will be in charge of ensuring that the implementation and the regulations that result from the process are consistent with public policy of promoting innovation and economic development of Puerto Rico by responsibly adopting betting on sports events, electronic games and fantasy contests.”