The Republic of Paraguay is a landlocked nation in South America, bordered by Argentina, Bolivia and Brazil. With a population approaching 6.5 million, it is divided into 17 provinces and one capital district, Asunción. The country’s official languages are Spanish and Guarani and the local currency is called the Guarani.
Spanish colonisation of the region now occupied by the Republic began in 1512 and extended through 1811. Wars, dictatorships, revolutions and military coups followed over the course of the next century and more. True stability was not achieved until the current constitution established a democratic system of government in 1992. The current President is Fernando Lugo, elected in 2008.
Despite all the political turmoil the country has seen, gambling activities have been a key aspect of life in Paraguay since 1943, when the very first casino was opened. Throughout the second half of the 20th century, land-based casinos sprung up and were joined by bingo halls, gambling halls, lotteries and sports betting shops, with the legal age for gambling being 18 years old.
A major impetus to the growth of gambling in Paraguay was the rise to power of Brazil’s President Eurico Gaspar Dutra. He banned all traditional casinos and their games as well as sportsbooks in 1946. Under the prohibition, only lotteries and horse race betting were allowed, so Brazilians seeking betting opportunities flocked to their neighbour’s welcoming gaming tables and bookmakers.
One of the big attractions was the Hipódromo de Asunción built in 1954 and owned by the Jockey Club del Paraguay. Featuring a grass track measuring 1,810 metres long and 20 metres wide, it has always been the largest race track in the country for thoroughbred racing and pari-mutuel betting.
For the better part of six decades, gambling in Paraguay flourished with little regulation. Then, in 1997, a new agency was formed within the Ministerio de Hacienda (Home Ministry) to oversee all of the nation’s gaming activities, including licensing and taxation of casinos, among other activities. Known as the Comisión Nacional de Juegos de Azar (National Committee of Games of Chance) or simply the “Conajzar” for short, almost immediately began to “clean up” the nation’s unlicensed gaming industry.
Casinos were a principal target and many of the older ones were forced to close when they failed to meet the necessary legal requirements set by the Conajzar. As result, only a handful of casinos remain in operation, including the San Bernardino Country Club & Hotel Acuario in Central Paraguay, with its 28 gaming machines and 14 table games, and the Casino Amambay Hotel in Pedro Juan Caballero.
One of the Conajzar’s most popular undertakings has been the State Lottery, which employs numerous street vendors that can be found offering odds on various proposition bets. An addition in 2005 was the so-called as “Bet-Book” offered under license by VIBA S.A. The game allows bettors to wager on the outcomes of sports events, political elections and even beauty contests. Numerous options are available, including accumulators, and tickets can be purchased from the street vendors.
To prevent money laundering, offshore banking is illegal in Paraguay, and a related law passed in 2008 applies in principle to offshore casinos as well. Although the government is not in favour of online gambling, it has chosen not to regulate it, so currently there are no measures in place to stop Paraguayan residents from wagering at foreign-owned web sites.
Today, the number of “Paraguayan-friendly” sportsbooks on the Internet totals 460, including 91 that offer services in the Spanish language. Among them are bet365, paddy Power, william hill, ladbrokes, unibet, expekt, 888 Sport and betfred Sportsbook. Deposit methods available range from credit cards, debit cards and prepaid cards to specialised e-commerce financial services, such as Click2Pay, Entropay and Moneybookers.