Betting in Uruguay

Facing the Atlantic Ocean and bordered by Argentina and Brazil, the Oriental Republic of Uruguay is a South American nation with a population of about 3.3 million people. It has the distinction of being the third smallest country on the continent after French Guiana and Suriname. The capital city is Montevideo, the national language is Spanish and the local currency is the Peso.

Both Spain and Portugal fought to make Uruguay their colony in the 16th and 17th centuries and their influence can still be seen throughout the country, which gained its independence in 1825-28. A unitary republic was created, but revolt, military coups and martial law marked the 20th century. It was not until the 1980s that the nation returned to democracy.

Today, Uruguay is a representative democratic republic with a presidential system. The government is led by José Alberto “Pepe” Mujica Cordano, who assumed office in 2010 as the country's 40th president.

One of the oldest forms of gambling in Uruguay is horse racing. The Maronas Race Track opened in Montevideo in 1889 and operated for more than a century before financial difficulties caused its doors to close in 1997. The facility was completely refurbished and reopened in 2003 as the Hipodromo Nacional de Maronas, equipped with the latest technology for pari-mutuel betting.

Racing takes place on weekends from noon till 6pm. The course features not only a racebook but also 1,500 gaming machines in its racino. There are two restaurants on the property, plus banquet facilities for special events.

The governing authority for horse racing in Uruguay is the Hipica Rioplatense Uruguay S. A. It is a member of the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities based in France and maintains statistics of Uruguayan betting and breeding. In 2010, for example, betting turnover reached the equivalent of just over €18.1 million, 70 percent of which was returned to bettors. More than 3,500 thoroughbred stallions and mares are registered nationwide.

Casinos are also a pat of the local gambling scene. At latest count there were 19 of them throughout the country, including three in Punta del Este, two in Rivera and one, the Casino de Estado Victoria Plaza, in Montevideo. Others are located in Artigas, Atlantida, Carmelo, Cerro Largo, Chuy, Colonia del Sacramento and Duranzo. Also featuring one casino each are La Palona, Paysandu, Piriapolis, Rio Branco, Rocha and San Jose. The legal age for gaming is 18 years old.

Poker has become especially popular in Uruguay in recent years, especially Texas Hold’em. Most of the casinos have at least one poker table, often open 24/7, and PokerStars conducts a leg of the Latin American Poker Tour in Punta del Este each year, drawing some 400 players to compete for prizes well in excess of US$100,000.

Administered by the government, the lottery in Uruguay is known as Loterias y Quinielas. The scale of operations is rather small compared to the lotteries operated by other South American countries, but there is certainly variety, with scratch tickets, raffles, instant lotteries, online lottery terminals and sports betting available.

In fact, sports wagering through the lottery is quite popular, whereas bookmaking pre se is not legal. Uruguayans are passionate fans of motor racing and football (soccer). Uruguay is not only the smallest nation ever to win the FIFA World Cup but also one of only five nations to win it on two or more occasions.

Those residents of Uruguay who wish to place fixed odds bets on football and other sports must resort to the Internet. Although the laws in Uruguay do not cover online gambling and no licensing opportunities are provided, foreign bookmakers are happy to welcome residents of Uruguay to their websites. Among the 453 online sportsbooks that accept bets from Uruguay, 91 have services in Spanish, including Bet365, Paddy Power, William Hill and Ladbrokes, to name just a few.

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