Betting in Ecuador

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Bordered by Colombia and Peru, Ecuador has long featured one of the most progressive gambling industries in South America. A 2010 estimate put the total number of gambling establishments within the country at more than 160, employing close to 25,000 full time workers.

Thanks to pro-gambling laws, for over half a century the government allowed just about all forms of betting, from land-based casinos and sportsbooks to bingo, lotteries and poker. Perhaps the only type of wagering not evident has been pari-mutual betting, whereas horse and dog racing were never embraced by the Ecuadorian people.

On the other hand, since 1949 casinos have conducting lucrative operations in Ecuador’s 24 provinces, where the legal age for gambling has long been 18 years old. At one point, the capital city of Quito could boast of six luxury casinos attached to 5-star hotels, including the Best Western Hotel Plaza Hotel & Casino and the Hilton Hotel & Casino Colon Quito. Another six resort-style casinos were located in Guayaquil, the country’s largest city.

Ecuadorians take sports seriously. They enjoy playing sports and betting on events, especially futbol (soccer). Although there are numerous betting centers set up throughout the country and a handful of top sports betting operations have been quite successful, a large number of unlicensed businesses exist, operating illegally. Visitors are reminded to always be very careful in dealing with what may not be legal enterprises.

In 2008, Ecuador hosted the Latin American Poker Tour—a sign of the increasing interest taken by local residents in card games. Caribbean Stud Poker has reigned among the most popular choices, along with Oasis Stud Poker and Texas Hold’em. Of special interest, a native of Ambato, Ecuador—Carlos “El Matador” Mortensen—became the first player to win the World Championship events at both the World Series of Poker and the World Poker Tour.

In late 2010, the climate for gambling activities took a dramatic turn in Ecuador. Left-wing President Rafael Correa announced that his government would seek to ban casinos on the basis of corruption and money laundering that had supposedly taken hold of the industry. Correa instructed his administration to arrange for a referendum to allow the Ecuadorian people to decide the fate of legalised gambling within the country.

However, long before the referendum in May 2011, police began closing down 55 casinos and online bingo games, including 18 in Punjab, a dozen in Los Ríos, seven in Esmeraldas and others in Pichincha, Imbabura, Oro and Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas. Although the National Association of Casino Arcade Owners and Managers (Anpasju) protested, the referendum later supported Correa’s actions and gave all casinos just six months to voluntarily close or else be shuttered by force.

The net loss in employment was initially estimated at 3,200 jobs. However, industry observers say the true number of employees and affected dependents may be over 100,000 left without a source of income.

Because Ecuador has never made any allowances for online gambling, there are no officially licensed dot-EC casinos or sportsbooks. On the other hand, there are also no restrictions on Ecuadorians gambling online at web site domiciled abroad. At the latest count, there were 463 Internet betting sites based in other countries that local players can use, including 92 that offer Spanish language pages.

Payment methods for accounts set up from Ecuador include credit and debit cards as well as specialised e-commerce services, such as Click2Pay, ClickandBuy, EcoCard, Entropay, Ezipay, Moneybookers, Ukash and UseMyFunds, among others. There is little doubt that Ecuadorian online gamblers enjoy online casinos, bingo halls, poker rooms and sportsbooks just as much their European counterparts.