LATAM: Unrealistic regulation will fail, warns legal expert

LATAM: Unrealistic regulation will fail, warns legal expert

Tuesday, May 10, 2016 Totally Gaming
Santi Asensi has advised Colombia's regulator on its new gaming laws

Online gaming legislation will fail unless it incorporates “three basic pillars”, according to the legal firm employed to assist the Colombian government in developing its new laws.

Santiago Asensi, managing partner of Asensi Abogados, said legislation will only work if lawmakers make correct and well-informed decisions in terms of tax, which games are allowed and where servers are allowed to be based.

Scheduled to be a guest speaker at this month’s Juegos Miami event, Asensi is one of the most highly-regarded gaming law experts in Latin America, with his company having been selected by Columbia’s Colijuegos regulator to provide advice on the development of online and land-based gaming laws in 2015.

Asensi told TotallyGaming.com that regulators must be prepared to be pragmatic and make decisions based on experience, rather than create a legalised structure that puts licensed operators at a disadvantage compared to the black market.

“In the specific case of online gambling, my view is that there are three key points in regulation that need to be duly addressed,” said Asensi, whose firm has offices in Spain and Colombia. “They are a reasonable level of taxation, allowance of server allocation anywhere in the world and full portfolio of bets and games.

“Ignoring one of these three basic pillars will directly drive the regulator to a big failure. Obviously, there is not a standard regulation that is valid for every single jurisdiction, but being in the 21st century, the industry knows what works and what does not.

“If possible, I believe in a liberalised framework that gathers the interests of both international and domestic operators in the same jurisdiction.

“Experience shows that bans on gambling or strong restrictions only help the growth of the illegal market. Therefore, I am a strong supporter of fully liberalised markets where gambling is understood as part of the entertainment industry.”

After working with Asensi, Colombia’s regulator opened a public consultation on draft legislation in December 2015, with a proposed minimum tax rate of 17 per cent on gross gaming revenue and an administration fee of not more than one per cent. Under the draft, there would be an unlimited number of licences available, with a wide range of casino games, poker and sports betting, including in play, to be legalised. 

Asensi, whose company was also instrumental in the development of the Spanish Gambling Act at the start of the decade, said countries could not be expected to all make the same decisions about gaming legislation as they each have different cultures and traditions, as well as different goals and requirements. However, he does believe that regulators should look at ways of consolidating their needs with those of operators and other interested parties.

“Regulators usually have two goals: protecting consumers and collecting taxes,” said Asensi. “Both matters, if duly regulated, are absolutely compatible with the operators’ interests.

“My best advice for any regulator is that, before they start drafting, they should study what other regulators have done in their respective jurisdictions. Meeting with all the different agents of the industry in order to gather as much information as possible should be a must. Furthermore, this is a global industry where the exchange of information between regulators is crucial in matters like technical standards, illegal gambling, AML, data protection, etc.”

- Juegos Miami takes place at The Biltmore, Coral Gables from May 31 to June 3. For more information, visit www.juegosmiami.com. To apply for your invitation* visit www.juegosmiami.com to find out more, and follow @JuegosMiami on Twitter and visit the event’s Facebook page for further information and the latest updates. Attendance at Juegos Miami will be limited to senior decision makers (owner, director, C-Level exec) from operating companies (private and public including state lotteries), government and regulators from the Latin America and Caribbean region.

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