Influential Chilean Paper Criticizes Slot Legalization

Allowing backroom competition is unfair to licensed operators

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It is not often that one of Chile’s most influential newspapers devotes an editorial to gambling news.

Thursday’s editorial column of La Tercera, however, carried a strongly worded criticism of the government’s recent plans to legalize “neighborhood slot machine parlors”

According the moderately conservative daily, the government is essentially “acknowledging the inability of the authorities to control the situation.” The situation being, that hundreds of thousands of slot machines are operated in various small shops in circumvention of national gambling regulations.

Although slots are not illegal in the country, Chilean gambling laws restrict them to licensed casinos for now. That restriction is clearly being ignored by these backroom competitors, so the government has opted for legalization and regulation.

On a side note, one may add that if the government is so willing to acknowledge the reality of slots gaming and legislate accordingly, there is no reason why it shouldn’t do the same for the sake of those who would like to play at online casinos in Chile.

After all, hundreds of thousands of Chileans are already surfing the net, looking for an attractive bingo bonus, the latest poker room, the best free no download slot or whatever else they would like to play, so it would make sense to legalize and regulate it in a similar manner.

The paper, however, opines that by going down the path of legalization the government is shortchanging legal, licensed gambling operators. The editorial claims that “the lottery, casinos and racetracks […] are subject to regulations, must meet performance requirements and pay specific taxes. In particular, the casinos, under the new legislation passed in 2005, competed and won [the right to operate their establishments] being aware of the investments required.”

La Tercera’s criticism points out that the current situation came about due “to the complicity of most municipalities that granted the licenses on the grounds that slots are not gambling, but games of skill.”

“From the moment the State is unable to control a practice that directly affects them – as it relies on a form of gambling that only those [licensed casinos] should run – it fails to uphold its end of the bargain. It thereby allows unfair competition, which also affects the performance of all the other types of gambling,” adds the editorial, calling upon the government to apply the existing laws “bluntly”.

There are no exact statistics, but official estimates place the number of these semi-legal devices at around 200,000. Industry sources claim that the figure is closer to 700,000.

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