As the Latin American gaming market continues to grow rapidly with different countries and different regulations, what can help the region grow consistently?
Communication, said participants on the “Cross-Border Collaboration: Regulatory Re-Alignment Across Latin America’s Gaming Markets” panel at the SBC Summit Latinoamérica at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida.
“It always works better when we all work together,” Ida Lopez, chairwoman of the Mendoza Lottery Institute, said about the relationship between regulators and operators. That’s especially important as Argentina works quickly to set up its regulatory framework.
Those thoughts were echoed by Martín García Santillan, president of the Buenos Aires City Lottery, or LOTBA.
“In Argentina, there are 24 different jurisdictions. That’s one of our biggest challenges,” García Santillan said. “Some things are authorized in some places, but not others, so that generates headaches. Operators may not listen to regulators, which can impact negatively things in the industry that can be quite positive,” he added. “It’s important to work on a common agenda. We need operators’ openness, so we can guide them better.”
Lopez says that works both ways, too. “We must learn how to listen to those who know and have experiences. We listened to the different operators and their experience.”
Not trying to reinvent the wheel has helped develop strong regulations, panelists said. In a continent where most countries are Spanish-speaking, starting with Spain’s regulatory model as a basis can be helpful, García Santillan and Lopez agreed.
“We used the Spanish model and saw some good points and bad points of regulation. That helped us,” Lopez said. “Some regulations can’t be changed, but we keep international standards and that helps us a lot.”
Lopez said conferring with other Latin American countries on how they were drafting regulations also assisted in the process.
But as Cristina Romero de Alba, a partner at LOYRA, reminded attendees, not every Latin American country is the same. “Each country has its different idiosyncrasies. Games that work in Mexico don’t work in Colombia.”
For Cecilia Valdés, executive president of the Chilean Association of Gaming Casinos, the challenge in working with neighboring countries is more than simply a willingness to do so. Chile forbids online gaming now, though Valdés says that could change by the end of next year. “Today, the world of online gaming is cross-border and there’s a need for not just the physical world, but also the virtual world.”
Fighting illegal operators is something operators and regulars are united on as the Latin American market grows.
“We have to protect against illegal operations, but it can be difficult to manage it,” Valdés said. “Our goal is a competitive, sound, open market.”
But one thing can’t be lost when focusing on regulation, according to Romero de Alba.
“We need to use the word ‘sustainable.’ What is going to happen in the long term?” she asked, while mentioning the explosion of technology and artificial intelligence and the need for independent scientific agencies to take the lead in generating reliable and unbiased data. “The industry has a data problem. We need serious processes to gather information, gather data. We need to motivate all industry leaders to look that way.”