Betting in Argentina

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Post-colonial Argentina has grown to becoming one of the leading nations of South America. Since shaking off its subservience to Spain in 1880, the republic has extended considerable freedom to its populace, including permission to participate in just about all types of gambling.

One of the very first forms of organised betting activity to appear in the newly formed nation was pari-mutuel betting on horse races. The Jockey Club of Buenos Aires, founded in April of 1882, conducted thoroughbred racing in the capital until the 1950s. Under its management, the grand Hipódromo de San Isidro (San Isidro Racetrack) was inaugurated in 1935 on 148 hectares of land about 22 kilometres north of Buenos Aires city.

Today, the San Isidro facility ranks among the largest and most beautiful racetracks in the Americas. It is now owned and operated by the Argentine Jockey Club, founded in 1966. An electronic wagering totalisator system connected to 597 mutual cash-betting machines was installed in 1979.

A second racecourse near Buenos Aires, the Hipódromo de la Plata, has added to the racing action. Since 2004, off-track betting has also been allowed through lottery agencies around the country as well as via telephone.

Lotteries, of course, have long been legal in Argentina, many offering huge cash prizes. Options currently available to Argentinean lotto players range from the popular Qiuniela lottery game to El loto 6/41, Spiel, Numbers, Passive, Instants and the Sports Lottery.

As for casino-style gambling, few countries in the world can match Argentina’s passion for games of chance. One survey put the number of major casinos in the country at 157—more than the total of the next three Central and South American nations combined (i.e., Peru, Costa Rica and Panama with just 146 all together).

The number of casinos includes cruise ships, slot clubs, luxury resorts, licensed urban hotels and casino clubs. The city of Posadas alone has seven gaming venues, while Salta counts five and Santiago del Estero has three. Estimates put annual gambling revenues in Argentina at around $4~$5 billion per annum—#1 in the world in the Southern Hemisphere.

Part of that income derives from a highly active sports betting industry. Wagering on football is especially attractive to Argentineans. One of the ways in which bets are placed is through the Lotería Nacional Sociedad del Estado, which operates the national lottery, and their sports lottery system allows wagering on a variety of events.

Proper Argentine sportsbooks can also be found throughout the country. In fact, well-known foreign bookmakers such as ladbrokes have been operating betting shops in Argentina since the 1990s.

Because regulated gambling generates such a high level of tax revenue for the state, the Argentine government has been open to licensing online gambling sites. The first state-sanctioned online casino opened in 2002, followed by the first online sports betting site in 2006. At present, some 17 bookmakers have set up dot-AR presences, such as bwin Argentina, which uses Spanish as its primary language.

Argentine authorities have, however, been much less welcoming to competition from online casinos and sports betting web sites located abroad. In 2008, a law was passed prohibiting unlicensed foreign sites from dealing with local residents, but within a year the government’s inability to enforce the ban was obvious.

Despite rulings against 888.com and Victor Chandler by municipal judges in Buenos Aires, Argentineans continue to frequent offshore sites. CasinoCity puts the number of Argentina-friendly sports betting web sites at 473, including Titan Bet, ladbrokes, bet365, paddy Power, unibet, Gambookers, expekt, Party Bets and betfred, to name just a few of the biggest names.