Mexican President vows Casino Licence crackdown

The Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is making good on an election promise by cracking down on the number of casino licences issued in the Central American country.  This will have no impact on those who gamble remotely and take advantage of online casino bonuses through operators like Bet365 or who seek to enjoy current online promotions and offers that Bet 365 links promotes.

However, it will affect those in Mexico who enjoy entering bricks and mortar gambling premises.

Technically, gambling halls and casinos in Mexico are meant to be illegal as they were banned by act of parliament in 1947. However, in practice, hundreds of them exist, with local authorities turning a blind eye to their presence in cities and towns.

Former President Vicente Fox was given permission by the Mexican courts in a bid to bolster the tourist trade, as well as too generate much needed tax revenue.

However, backed by the Catholic Church, Obrador ran on an anti-gambling platform when he was running for office, and, since assuming power at the end of 2018, he has not personally approved any new licences.

The church opposition to casino gambling has been long standing, but really crystallised after the 2011 Monterrey casino attack.

That saw a group of some 25 gunmen, who purported to be members of the Los Zetas drug cartel, storm the Casino Royale in Monterrey. The premises were doused in flammable liquid and set on fire. 52 people died in the incident, many of them women. It was later attributed to the result of a feud between competing gangs, both of whom wanted control of the area.

Some of those captured said they had only intended to scare the owners of the premises because they had refused to pay a weekly “operating” fee to the drug cartel, and that things had simply got out of hand.

Obrador has now gone further, affirming that not only is he not prepared to grant any more casino licences, but he is considering rescinding all of those that have been granted in the past four years.

Cynics may argue that he has taken some time to act on his promises. Mexican presidents are only allowed to serve one six year term in office, and he is more than halfway through his.

Perhaps it is an attempt to safeguard his legacy, although others may believe that what he is trying to do is bring order and structure into what had become a chaotic situation under previous regimes.

Despite the overarching law, there had been widespread deviance from the prohibition on organised gambling premises, and some state governors had abrogated powers to themselves to issue local licences, especially in coastal resort towns.

In fact, the legislation concerning gambling in Mexico is full of holes at present. Gambling is allowed, subject to obtaining authorisation from the relevant government department. It remains a federal issue, and not one to be decided at state or local level.

However, because the most recent piece of legislation was last amended in 2004, internet gambling – which was still in its infancy then – is not covered at all.

Regulators are currently drafting new gambling legislation, but there have been no dates yet announced when it might be brought before parliament for debate.

However, any moves to try and prohibit gambling completely will likely fail, as can be seen from the numerous other countries where this has been tried. Far better to make sure that it is properly controlled and licensed and that adequate safeguards are in place to make sure that players are properly protected and that operators are legitimate and operate in a professional manner.