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Chile, a Latino-American gambling gem: An industry growing at the speed of winnings

Thursday, 2 June 2016

-Oana Mihalache

The Chilean gambling industry is “young” enough, if we take into account the fact that up until 2005 gambling activities were largely prohibited in Chile. While a few casinos were operating in the country even before this year, their activity was mainly regulated by the municipality, as there wasn’t any central state authority in charge of gambling activities. Chile is, nonetheless, one of the biggest gambling industries in Latin and Central America, after Argentina and Mexico, and it’s also the country with the fastest growth in the industry from the whole region.

Starting from January 2005, the legal number of casinos that were allowed in the country was raised – through the Casino Act – from 7 to 14. More precisely, according to this law, each region in Chile was allowed to host a casino, some even two. At the present moment, there are over 12 casinos located in 10 cities, and the biggest of them is Vina del Mar, from the homonymous city. This casino offers over 90 table games and around 1500 gaming machines, but also the most recent technologies in the field, which are part of the reason why it attracts around 8000 players each night during the season. The building of this casino was opened in the New Year of 1930, and now it’s the oldest operational casino in Chile. 

Apart from casinos, other forms of gambling offered in Chile are sporting bets, lottery, but also a big variety of live games. Regarding online gambling, though, things are not as easy, as the law in force at the time prohibits sites dedicated to online gambling, even if official proposals to issue licenses for this purpose have already been advanced by a few senators in the country. Nonetheless, the application of this law is not very strict and gambling facilities can still access many international sites, which offer services in English or Spanish.

One of the gambling activities which are very popular in Chile, apart from casinos, are sporting bets, which include dogs and horse races, but also football and other sports. The only company dedicated to sports betting which has a state license is Xperto, which also operates and sports betting site, the only one of its kind in Chile. When they do not spend their time in casinos and they do not take part in sporting races for betting activities, gamblers in Chile play at the National Lottery, which was founded in 1921, with the main purpose of raising funds for University Concepcion. The most popular game at the Chilean lottery is Kino, in which players have to choose 14 out of 25 numbers. The lottery also offers online gaming possibilities, but foreign operators are not allowed to offer online lottery games for Chilean citizens – even though this thing happens, de facto.

Even though its growth started recently in time, the gambling industry in Chile advanced at a fact pace: there are now 48 applications for 17 licenses that the state has to offer, this meaning that an important number of casinos will be added to the existing ones. Incomes from the gambling industry are on an ascending path – for example, between 2009 – 2011, these incomes grew from $200 million to $500 million, a spectacular growth for a country with less over 17 million inhabitants. In 2015 incomes from gambling reached to $ 765 million, recording the highest growth rate in the region of Latin America – 19.8 from 2011 – 2015. This thing is also due to the fact that taxes which are perceived by the state are high when compared to other countries: operators pay 20% of their incomes, in comparison to Argentina – 16% or Singapore – up to 15%.

The socio-economic impact of gambling is, consequently, one of major importance for Chile. In 2015, though, specialists ensued a warning regarding the addiction problem, with a huge impact on players. The problem was politically confronted – the Chamber of Deputies already adopted measures that were included in the Gambling Law and in the Civil Code.

Even though it already has a decade of strict regulation, the gambling industry in Chile now records a spectacular growth and brings many tourists in the exotic landscape of the country. While some well-established markets of this industry now face a slow growth or even stagnation, we can say that Chile is part of the emergent countries in the area: it is developing with the speed of great winnings and it attracts a bigger and bigger share of the Latin American visitors.

Author: Editor

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