Uruguay’s Private Gambling: A Feast in Time of Pandemic

Uruguay’s state-owned casinos criticized the private gambling sector’s response to the recent spike in Covid-19 cases, saying it did not comply with health and safety protocols.

Private Casinos Fail to Comply With Shutdown Decree

Uruguay’s National Association of State Casino Officials (Anfuce) has criticized the actions of the unregulated gambling sector in relation to the current situation with Covid-19 in the country. The state officials said in a statement that the owners of the illegal establishments are not taking the situation seriously and are continuing their activity without any sanitary control.

On Monday, the Uruguayan government issued a decree ordering all state casinos to close until April 12 and asked operators from the private sector to follow suit. The initial order that was issued a few days earlier excluded casinos, but the Republic’s President, Luis Lacalle Pou, and the Minister of Economy and Finance, Azucena Arbeleche, decided to close the gaming halls afterward.

The government’s actions were prompted by the increase in Covid-19 cases and the identification of the P1 variant from Manaus, Brazil. Before the government decided to close casinos, Anfuce’s chief, Mariana López, said:

“Not one casino in the country has caused an outbreak of Covid-19. This is due to the fact that we work with a strict sanitary protocol, which was agreed by the Ministry of Public Health (MSP) and the Office of Planning and Budget (OPP).”

The mandatory health and safety protocols established by the government include limiting the number of customers, the use of masks and disinfectants, temperature control, distancing between gaming terminals, and the installation of sanitizing machines.

Anfuce had previously warned that at least 1,000 casino employees might be affected if the shutdown takes place. After the government took the decision, members of Enjoy Punta del Este’s workers association (Ateu) claimed that it was a result of pressure from the media and people unaware of how the establishments carry out their business activity.

Online Casino Bill on Uruguay’s Agenda

Gambling in Uruguay has more than 100 years of history and gambling sites are an attractive tourist spot. Traditional casinos, racinos, sports betting, pari-mutuel betting, poker rooms and horse racing tracks are the visitors’ most favorite gambling facilities and activities. 

Online gaming in Uruguay is provided by the state-managed company Supermatch. In July 2020, Gustavo Anselmi, head of the General Directorate of Casinos in Uruguay, said that many people are gambling online, although it’s prohibited. The executive added that the creation of an online casino bill is on his agenda. Anselmi added that it is a political decision and did not specify if foreign operators will be allowed into the market.

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