Martin Lycka: Chile and Peru gambling regulation is a trek

Peru and Chile gaming regulation
Image: Shutterstock

Entain’s SVP for American Regulatory Affairs and Responsible Gambling Martin Lycka’s latest column reassures those following the developments in Latin America that, though it may seem like a neverending climb, the summit appears to finally be in sight when it comes to gambling in Chile and, in particular, Peru.

Huascaran (6,678 meters) and Ojos del Salado (6,873 meters) are respectively the highest points of Peru and Chile. Both represent very arduous climbs that require a lot of mountaineering experience, nimbleness, and grit. There are no freebies to be had here. No walks in the park. 

Figuratively speaking, the same goes for the pending regulatory processes that the two aforesaid Andean countries have been through. The summit, it being a fully regulated market, is in sight, yet we’re not quite there yet in either case, with the Peruvian climbers, to be fair, being far closer to it than their Chilean peers. 

Coming out of the pandemic we may, however, want to be looking at the bright side, so let’s be hopeful that we will have reached the two respective peaks soon and that Peru and Chile will have joined the Latin American Online Gambling Revolution and launch their regulated markets in the magic year of 2023. To be fair, a lot points in a positive direction, i.e. all the way up. 

In the past, Peru has seen numerous false dawns when it comes to regulating its online gambling market. There have been at least four different online gambling bills that have found their way to the Peruvian Congress. The first three bills were weighed and measured but, despite not having been found wanting, were shelved. 

The timing wasn’t quite right or there just happened to have been other priorities at the time the online gambling bills were being considered. Needless to say, a story very familiar to those of us who have dealt with gambling regulation at least for a while. It’s not as though, perhaps with the notable exceptions of Nevada or Monaco/Monte Carlo, regulating (online) gambling would be conducive to too many political brownie points … 

The most recent fourth attempt has nevertheless thrived. The Peruvian Congress happens to be a unicameral body, which does help for navigation purposes. It has approved a bill that legalizes online gambling in the country. 

I appreciate that online gambling bills in Spanish may not necessarily be your favorite bedtime reading. If you were to give it a go though, the Peruvian bill would make for a pleasant one from both the regulatory and pure perspective. It ticks most, if not all, of the standard boxes: all product categories permitted, no servers on the ground required, the overall tax rate, including fees, is in the region of 14% GGR, no onerous corporate setup on the ground, etc. 

The fans of omnichannel will be thrilled to hear that the bill allows for game rooms, a form of online gambling space in land-based establishments. On the other hand, crypto fans will likely end up gutted, as cryptocurrencies are explicitly prohibited. But hey, we can’t have it all our way and, overall, the approved bill clearly indicates that Peru has taken a major step towards going down the route of Colombian-style gambling regulation. 

While I was writing the initial iteration of this column, there still was a potential twist in the tale to be had that would have had the potential power to spice up that rather tedious bedtime reading about scaling Andean regulatory climbs. At that point, we were still waiting for the Peruvian President to sign the approved bill into law. 

Since then, President Castillo has done the honorable thing and has come out of the (non-)drama on the “To Be” side of the Hamletian question, as a result of which the law has by now seen the light of day. It is now up to the Peruvian regulator, MINCETUR, to produce a set of implementing regulations to put more technical flesh on the bones of the basic regulatory principles that underpin the online gambling law.  

Huascaran is very close then. How about the Chilean Ojos del Salado? It is fair to say off the bat that we’re a little further down in Chile than in Peru. At the same time, we keep climbing. 

The Chilean authorities publicly stated its intention to regulate the country’s online gambling market last summer and have started toiling away. Presidential and other elections were getting in the way, yet, we have now reached the stage whereby the matter of online gambling regulation has started going through parliamentary motions. 

It remains to be seen how the parliamentary debate shakes out. The issues to address are, however, very similar, if not identical, to the ones that Peru has addressed in its legislation, namely offshore operators, economic fallout from the pandemic, and the need to further digitalize the local economy. One would like to think that Chile might come to the same conclusion and generate regulation designed to attract offerings that will have the ability to satisfy already existing customer demand. 

We shall be willing the country on during its regulatory climb, hoping it eventually reaches the apex as Peru has.