Even the most inquisitive gamblers might not know much about Mexico – aside from its famous burritos and tacos, of course – mostly for a reason of the long-lasting reluctance of the local authorities to regulate online gambling in a straightforward, understandable way despite having all the means and support for it. Dozens of amendments and re-issues have been published since the prohibition of gambling by the President Lazaro Cardenasin 1935. But that is only now that Mexico is getting close to creating its first transparent offline and online gambling environment, even if it’s still is quite a bumpy ride. Hoorah!
But let’s save the praises for a moment: first of all, there’s ambiguity even in the most recent Mexican gambling provisions. Secondly, the huge Mexican gambling market is huge, with a total revenue of more than $2 billion. It is mostly entirely underground, with illegal or non-authorized websites accounting for 90% of the total number of gambling platforms, which causes tremendous losses to the economy and results in Mexican gamblers being completely unprotected from fraud scams. As of 2017, there were at least 150 websites to gamble online from Mexico, and the number must have grown significantly by now.
The Realities of Gambling in Mexico Today
On paper, Mexican gambling has determined boundaries. The main provision is Gaming Law published by President Miguel Alemán Valdés on 31 December 1947 and amended several times in the previous decade. The amendments were so ambiguous that in 2014, a new regulatory bill was put forward to regulate gambling activities for all market participants and set the limits and guidelines for authorization, control, inspection, and penalties for non-compliance. Nevertheless, the updated set of rules hasn’t been approved by the Senate for years (to be more precise, since 3 December 2014, when it was sent for review and approval).
The main regulatory bodies determined by the Gaming Law are the Ministry for the Interior (SEGOB) and the Gaming Bureau. SEGOB regulates, authorizes, controls, and supervises gaming activities where bets are crossed, and such activities cannot be conducted without permission by SEGOB. Gaming Bureau performs the same functions for bets and draws.
However, as being said, there are still many gray zones as well as a lack of clear interpretation of gambling laws and regulations. As of 2023, the recognized offline gambling services are horse races, dog races, fronton, cockfights, draws, and remote betting facilities (sports betting, betting) on foreign books. Poker and casino games (considered as live gambling) are not regulated. The situation with slot machines is unclear: on the one hand, machine gaming is allowed by the 2013 amendment to the Gaming Regulations; on the other hand, slots – defined as draws of symbols/numbers through devices – are prohibited by Article 12 of the Gaming Regulation.
What’s Going On With Gambling in Mexico Online?
Despite the actively developing niche of online casinos in Mexico OnliceCasinoHex.ca portal states that the online gambling industry is still standing on wobbly legs. There’s no specific law on online gambling. Still, the local authorities somehow interpret the Gaming Law provisions and even issue licenses to online gambling operators (not to mention the Mexican government’s attempt to impose a new tax regime on online gambling operators). For example, 1xBet was recently awarded a long-term Mexican online gambling license by SEGOB; Bet365 launched a Mexican-licensed online gambling website in June 2019.
The general case is that the majority of Mexican punters are forced to play on offshore gambling websites. On the one hand, these players are not protected by Mexican laws (at the same time, there’s no punishment for gambling at unauthorized online casinos). Reputable online casinos licensed by, say, the UK Gambling Commission, are always seen as safe and reliable casinos with no place for fraud or mistreatment.
It’s also important to add that recent amendment to Mexican VAT law caused it’s own fair share of disturbance since it seems to be giving a free pass for foreign operators to function on the outskirts of Mexico, while at the same time forcing local licensed providers to cover VAT payments. Also, it’s not what it seems. New VAT laws only clear out that foreign operators may provide their services only if their gaming technology fits the VAT law specifications and that games of chance with pay-to-play mechanics, as it seems to be, are not considered gambling anymore. Players in Mexico will have no problems accessing them. As for the local gambling operators, VAT law luckily will not be added to the list of all the taxes they usually need to cover like IEPS, federal player withholding tax, and permit contributions (and I’m not even mentioning local taxes, which are different from state to state). Nevertheless, despite causing some discussions and worries, this amendment may have nudged the gambling regulation process in the right direction. Come what may, we can only wait and see.
What to Expect in the Years to Come?
Having the most rapidly developing market of online gambling, Mexico still has to improve its gambling legislation, especially regarding online gambling. We hope that one day all these tribulations will finally end for the Mexican gambling market and all delays, additional amendments, all the taxes that bleed operators dry will be just a story in some review article. It is common knowledge that only through solid facts and thorough but fair regulations online gambling market plays a significant role in the county’s way towards progress and prosperity. All there’s left to do is trim the regulation laws a bit and leave more honest and secure ways for both local and foreign brands to develop the base and future for the Mexican gambling market.
And if that were to happen shortly, the Mexican gambling market would have all the chance to follow the examples of the countries that have already embraced internet technologies to the fullest and thereby harnessed online gambling to their benefit.