Approval of Debit Card use divides Buenos Aires on Safer Gambling duties

Lucia Mouriño – SBC Noticias

The government of the Province of Buenos Aires has authorized the use of electronic payments, leading to casinos now being able to accept debit card use. As a response, different groups argued that this approval could lead to problem gambling issues.

Through a new measure from the Provincial Institute of Lotteries and Casinos (IPLyC), the regulator of Argentina’s biggest jurisdiction repealed a 2016 provision that prohibited the use of electronic payments, such as debit cards, in casinos, bingo halls, racecourses and betting agencies.

Resolution No. 447 signed by the President of the IPLyC, Omar Galdurralde, aims at “preventing tax evasion and money laundering in gaming halls.” Additionally, the regulator wants to prevent “economic benefits from social plans or programs” from being used as funds, leading to debit cards linked to social benefits not being allowed to bet.

The measure also has the support of the Federal Administration of Public Income (AFIP), the national tax agency, which considers gambling a “recreation service”. Following this interpretation, the government is now interested in “banking casinos and games of chance and/or betting throughout the jurisdiction of the Province of Buenos Aires.”

In 2016, the government led by the current opposition decided to ban electronic payments inside gaming halls to “discourage any measure that facilitates money to continue betting without controls.” The decision was added to the existing prohibition of installing ATMs less than two blocks away from these venues.

Roberto ‘Chucho’ Páez, Secretary of the association that represents casino workers, linked the new measure to problem gambling and said that “the decision is being debated”, despite the fact that it has already been published in the official gazette.

“Last week, I got in touch with the lottery authorities because we’re concerned. In the past, a program was put into place to take care of the people in the Province with gambling addiction,” Páez said, and acknowledged that “there is a demand” among users to have more payment methods beyond cash and announced that there will be “a new meeting with the authorities to have more details” about the issue.

Although the resolution only refers to the authorization of transactions with debit cards, thus only reversing the prohibition of this method and keeping the prohibition of credit cards, ATMs, checks and personal loans in place, Representative Florencia Retamoso presented a bill to ban the use of debit and credit cards in gambling halls.

The bill would work as a counter-measure that would completely reverse the decision from the provincial Executive branch, although its language aims at a much bigger prohibition that is already in place.

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