The gambling business in Uruguay, unlike most Latin American countries, is legalized. The development of gambling in the country has not encountered either religious or political bias. For more than a hundred years, a regulated gambling market has been operating on the territory of the state, where all types of gambling services are presented – casino table games, slots, bets and lotteries. Online gambling is also available in the country. Online casinos are not regulated by law and are located in the so-called “gray zone”.
The country with a population of 3.4 million people supports the development of the gambling business in conjunction with tourism. In Uruguay, most casinos are located in hotel complexes with a developed infrastructure. There are also separate halls with slot machines. The annual income of the state from hotels with casinos in 2015 amounted to USD 212.7 million, of which USD 36.5 million was due to slot games.
Gambling legislation of Uruguay
Most gambling is allowed in Uruguay. Among them are:
- sports betting and sweepstakes;
- card games;
- other board games.
These entertainments are freely provided in tourist areas within the casino hotels, gambling halls and poker rooms. Games like bingo and bingo are also allowed. These types of board games are not considered gambling and are classified as social and charitable. Churches and charity centers are usually involved in organizing bingo games.
Gambling regulators and gambling laws
Only the Uruguayan authorities have the right to provide gambling services in the country. However, the governing bodies (in particular the Ministry of Finance) can grant concessional permission to individuals to organize a gambling business. Permits are issued in accordance with the list of legislative acts:
- Law No. 9630 was passed on December 22, 1936. It allows the organization of gambling business in the territory of the city of Rivera in order to develop tourism.
- Law No. 9994 was adopted on December 26, 1940. It allows placing gambling establishments on the territory of Villa del Rio Branco
- Law No. 13931 was passed on November 30, 1970. It identifies six additional gambling tourism zones in Uruguay where private companies can host casinos
- Law No. 14335 was passed on January 2, 1975. It describes how private entrepreneurs can obtain a concession agreement for the provision of gambling services and what is the role of local authorities in the management of casinos.
In addition to the laws described, Uruguay has a number of additional acts regulating the provision of a number of gambling services or the organization of a gambling business. These include:
- Law No. 14841, which defines the list of gambling games and limits the prize payments
- Law No. 15716 establishes a state monopoly on lotteries and allows private companies to organize lotteries with state grants
- Law 17006 regulates the acceptance of bets on horse races that will take place at the Maroñas National Racecourse.
- Law no. 17166 defines other forms of contests and sweepstakes that are run by private individuals and require separate permission from representatives of the Ministry of Finance.
There are no laws providing for the provision of online gambling services to this day. Also, no acts have been developed prohibiting online gambling.
Conditions for obtaining a license in Uruguay
Private companies are entitled to organize gambling activities in Uruguay. In order for the Ministry of Finance to approve the applicant and issue the concession, the enterprise must meet a number of requirements:
- the applicant must have start-up capital for organizing gambling activities (including the construction of the site and the creation of tourist infrastructure);
- a company wishing to act as an operator must have the funds to purchase a concession agreement;
- gambling organizers must invest in the development of tourism and the economy of Uruguay.
Today in Uruguay there are seventeen casino hotels in gambling and tourist zones. They offer a wide range of gambling entertainment, including:
- black Jack;
- slot machines, video poker and digital table games.
Online gambling in the country
Gaming at online casinos in Uruguay has not been banned until recently. However, the online gambling market has not been regulated. Today there is no legal basis for the creation of national gambling sites. Nevertheless, for a long time, the government did not prohibit the local population from playing on the Internet sites of foreign operators.
The most popular online casinos in Uruguay are:
- Slots Plus Casino rated 5/5;
- All Slots Casino – 4.5 / 5;
- Vegas Casino Online – 4.3 / 5;
- Omni Casino – 4/5;
- Planet 7 Casino – 3.8 / 5.
The national language of Uruguay is Spanish. Therefore, most international online casinos offer an interface in this language.
On July 26, 2017, the government of Uruguay announced that it was developing bills to restrict the access of citizens of the country to online casinos of foreign operators. Such measures are necessary to increase the attendance of land-based gambling establishments.
Popular slot machines in Uruguay
Various models of slot machines are popular in Uruguay, provided in land-based and online casinos. The devices from Greentube, IGT, Bally, WMS and many other developers have been successful. Among online slots, residents of Uruguay choose modern five-reel slots with an abundance of bonus features:
- Aliens (NetEnt);
- Cash Stampede (NextGen);
- Germinator (Microgaming);
- Aztec Treasures (Betsoft);
- Iron Man (Playtech).
Slot machines with digital table games – video poker, roulette, scratch cards and many others – are also in demand.
Gambling software developers
Uruguay does not have its own production of technical solutions and digital games for land-based casinos. All equipment located in the gambling halls is imported. The purchase and transportation of equipment for gambling establishments is undertaken by companies that have entered into a concession agreement with the state.
Prospects for the development of the gambling business in the country
Gambling experts predict an increase in the popularity of gambling in Uruguay and an increase in annual revenues from land-based gambling establishments. Thus, in 2016 gross casino revenue increased by 6.5% compared to the previous fiscal year. Income from slot machines increased by 9.5%. Taking into account the difficult situation in the gambling business in the Latin American market, the popularity of the gambling and tourist zones of Uruguay will only increase.
It is likely that in the near future the Uruguayan government will start drafting laws regulating online gambling. This segment of the gambling market, with the right approach, can increase income from the entire industry. However, today the legalization of online casinos in Uruguay remains a secondary issue. The government cannot determine exactly how the benefits of online gambling can be applied to tourism.
The gambling business in Uruguay is one of the main engines of the economy. Today gambling is allowed in six tourist zones and two large cities of the state. There are 17 casinos operating on the territory of the country as part of hotel complexes. Online casino activities are not regulated by law. As a result, there are no bans on visiting foreign gambling sites.