The state of gambling in Mexico is rather complicated. This is of course true for many nations, but while the rest of the region seems to make huge steps, Mexico has not yet advanced as much as the gambling minded would have hoped for.
Traditionally, Mexico has always shown its support to establishments that offered games of chance, but the gambling industry has rapidly changed over the last decades, making it difficult to regulate this activity as there are many product-specific characteristics.
This explains why there is still no clear definition of online gambling according to Mexican laws and which is why this digital activity has not yet been legalized. In this article, the current state of Mexican gambling regulations will be addressed with room for both traditional gambling activities and online gaming.
At the beginning of the 20th century, during Porfirio Díaz’s presidency, there were different
casinos found across the country, many of them proving a chic French-styled atmosphere. Throughout the Mexican revolution, more and more restrictions on gambling activities were put into place after which it was prohibited after World War II as part of the 1948 Gaming Law.
For a long time, gambling establishments were banned by law, although many Mexicans managed to place their wager on all sorts of games of chance at the many unofficial gambling venues. Some gambling products were not touched with bingo and lotteries licensed by the Ministry of the Interior. The same is true for betting on animal-related competitions such as horse racing, greyhound racing, and even bullfighting and cock fighting.
In the new millennium, the stricter laws imposed in 1948 were loosened with the legalization of sports betting revolutionizing the Mexican gambling industry in 2004. Since then, millions of dollars have led to gross taxable revenue for the Mexican Treasury Department. Interestingly, sports betting has moved toward online platforms as the number of smartphone bets has exploded, moving towards the most dominant source for betting.
Albeit online betting is a common practice for sports events, online casino websites have not yet been legalized. Online casino operators have not yet been successful in bringing their brands to Mexico although it needs to be pointed out that online casino bets are very common as it has turned out to be undoable to work with borders in cyberspace.
Truth be told, it doesn’t really matter whether online casinos are legalized in Mexico or not, Mexicans will find international online casinos on the internet and make their real money bets there.
International casinos often work with a European license which they use to offer their online services in North America or even in other unregulated countries such as New Zealand. People from these countries will hunt for casino discounts and evaluations as New Zealand citizens are not stopped from bringing their online bets to foreign websites.
This is also difficult to prevent in Mexico which is why online gambling is expected to grow. The government in Mexico has evaluated blocking offshore casino websites from the internet or ordering national banks to not accept gambling-related transactions, but the problem is that this doesn’t work.
With new casino sites being launched every day and modern payment methods making it possible to work around these blocks, players will find their favorite casino brands anyway. This may explain why there have been negotiations about reforming the gambling law and legalizing gambling in the country.
Legalization would first apply to the establishment of 35 brick-and-mortar casino venues which could potentially open their doors along the border between Mexico and the United States. Casinos do exist in Mexico and are usually tied to a hotel providing both national and international visitors with mostly slot machines and some table games such as poker to enjoy.
A logical next step would be to move on to legalizing online casinos. No specific plans have been announced, but other countries in the region have adopted new gambling laws, either locally or nationally. This holds for both North America and Latin America. With both sides of the Americas moving forward, Mexico is believed to follow at some point.
As such, the state of gambling in Mexico can be grouped into different categories. Interestingly, some games of chance are state-owned while others are completely outlawed. Mexicans with an interest in gambling can turn their attention to:
- Lotteries: are considered an acceptable form of gambling. Like in most countries, there are state-owned lotteries that contribute to the national treasury department. In Mexico, lotteries are regulated by the National Lottery for Public Assistance (Lotería Nacional para la Asistencia Pública).
- Bingo: While bingo is not prohibited, the current law considers bingo games as a way to promote fund-raising. Bingo activities can therefore not have a commercial objective.
- Horse Race Betting: Bets on horse races have always been part of the gambling landscape in the country. The Agua Caliente Hipódromo in Tijuana was once considered one of the most visited venues for horse racing. This gambling activity is still legal and regulated by the Gambling and Raffles Bureau.
- Sports Betting: Betting on sports events is allowed. This activity is also regulated by the previously mentioned Gambling and Raffles Bureau. In Mexico, there are different sportsbooks that are directly integrated into bars, hotels, and other gambling establishments. Bets can be made on sports events from both Mexico and abroad.
Under the current Gaming Law of Mexico, the following bodies are entitled to regulate gambling in the country:
- Ministry for the Interior (SEGOB): Regulates, authorizes, controls, and supervises different games of chance where real-money bets are made on. Gambling products and services cannot be provided without prior authorization of the Ministry for the Interior.
- Gaming Bureau: The previously mentioned Gaming Bureau is the appointed authority in Mexico to authorize, supervise and enforce the different activities related to making bets. It also issues the required licenses.
At current, there is no legal definition of online gambling in Mexican law. This is not only the case in Mexico, as other countries in North America and Europe have also made recent adaptations to their laws to incorporate online gambling as a separate, and major activity. The developments in online gambling have turned out to be one of the most urgent topics in a new gaming legal framework that has been announced, though not concretized.
The Mexican government first addressed the relevance of modern gambling activities with a new set of regulations created in 2004. Mexican residents are now permitted to make use of offline and online sportsbooks as well as go to land-based casinos if they meet the minimum age requirement of 18 years.
When it comes to online gambling, Mexican players can only sign up at offshore gambling sites that are regulated by a foreign and respected gambling authority. They also need to accept players from Mexico, making their website available in the country of Mexico.
At the same time, there are currently no provisions in the gambling law that allow an online casino website to launch its services on Mexican soil.
There were some attempts to bring local online gambling operators to Mexico in 2014 and 2015, but both attempts did not succeed and they have not been picked up ever since. With a country like Mexico bringing in millions of tourists every year, land-based casinos have become common for both locals and international visitors with demand for online versions growing among Mexicans in recent years.
While the rest of the continent has made significant progress in recent years, Mexico is still lacking behind compared to its neighboring countries. At the same time, it needs to be pointed out that the state of Mexico is most aware of what is going on in North America and LatAm and how well this is contributing from a financial point of view. Things are changing rapidly all around us and changes are also likely to come to Mexico.