Gambling in Venezuela
Gambling in Venezuela is legal. The volume of the market is small compared to other Latin American countries. The proceeds from Venezuelan casinos amount to 4 million USD each year. 5 casinos are operating in the country today. In addition, the situation is affected by severe poverty 76% of Venezuela's population are living below the poverty line. However, the gambling industry is regulated quite rigidly. Online gambling is allowed. Two Venezuelan companies that had government licenses went bankrupt. Venezuelans can still play freely in foreign online casinos.
Gambling Games in Venezuela
All types of gambling are allowed in Venezuela: Casinos, Bingo games and lotteries and Horse racing and dog racing. Online gambling has no clear-cut legislative framework in Venezuela so far. Venezuelans can freely play in foreign online casinos. The winnings will be taxed at 34%. Prizes in lotteries and horse races are taxed at 16%.
Slots in Demand
These are the slots that are most played among the Venezuelan players: Golden Book, Mosquitozzz, Paco and The Popping Peppers, Land of Lemuria and Juices Wild. Golden Book is a five-reel slot by Amatic that features 576 ways to produce combinations. You have a chance to win a round of free spins. Mosquitozzz is a slot by Novomatic that comes with 5 reels and 9 paylines. The slot also features a risk game. Paco and The Popping Peppers is a five-reel slot by BetSoft that comes with 30 paylines. The slot features cascading reels with multipliers for your winnings. Land of Lemuria is a slot by Microgaming that comes with 5 reels. The slot has no paylines whatsoever - this is where any continuous sequence of symbols wins. You have a chance to join the bonus game. Juices Wild is a slot by OpenBet that comes with 5 reels and 30 paylines. This fruit slot features a very simple gameplay. Venezuela has been going through an economic and financial crisis for many years. The gambling market in the 2000s remains small and poorly developed. This is facilitated by rigid policies and low living standards of Venezuelans. In order for the gambling market to flourish, the government should conduct some reforms in the gambling industry.
Casinos in Venezuela were legalised in 1997. Additional laws were then introduced that regulated the gambling taxes. Even before 1997 there were casinos operating in the country that were granted a permission by the local authorities. Since 1997 all establishments have been monitored by the state. The licenses are issued by the state as well. Casinos must be located inside five-star hotels in tourist areas. The number of rooms must be at least 200. The license is issued for 10 years with subsequent extension. The tax is 20% of the gross revenue. Back in the '90s most of the casinos could not withstand these requirements and eventually closed down. Two major casinos were located on Margarita Island. The rest of the casinos were located in the following provinces: Guyana, La Urbina, Maracaibo and Pampatar. In 1998 Hugo Chavez came to power and any hope for foreign investments or for the development of the industry vanished. President Chavez did not impose a direct ban on casinos - he just made the taxes unbearable. All establishments closed down. Now, since Mr. Chavez has been gone, the situation is gradually getting back to normal. The country is still having a hard time restoring the shattered economy, but the new government is still applying a lot of effort.
Gambling in Venezuela is regulated by a number of laws:
- Venezuela Control Act of Casinos, Bingo Halls and Slot Machines (Ley para el Control de Casinos, Salas de Bingo y Máquinas Traganíqueles - G.O Nro. 36.254 - 23/07/1997)
- The Regulation of Casinos, Bingo and Slot Machine Law (Reglamento de la Ley para el Control de los Casinos, Salas de bingo y Máquinas Traganíqueles - G.O. Nro. 36.523 - 24/08/1998)
- Tax Law on Gaming Activity (Ley de Impuestos a las Actividades de Juegos de Envite o Azar - 05/06/2007)
- Internal Regulation for National Commission for Casinos, Bingo Halls and Slot Machines (Reglamento Interno de la Comisión Nacional de Casinos, Salas de Bingo y Máquinas Traganíqueles - G.O. Extraord. N°.39.637 - 18/03/2011)
- The Law against Organised Crime and Financing of Terrorism (Ley Orgánica Contra la Delincuencia Organizada y Financiamiento al Terrorismo - G.O Número 39.912 - 30 /04/2012)
As of 2017, the Venezuelan government has been working on changing the legislative framework. New bills are being discussed. One of the main bills deals with casinos, slots and bingo. The other one deals with lotteries and sports betting. The draft reform was submitted in February 2002 and endorsed in May of the same year. The new laws are now being edited for the second final reading.
The National Commission for Casinos, Bingo Halls and Slot Machines is the Venezuelan regulator. This is a decentralised organisation within the Ministry of Finance. The Commission's Board of Directors consists of five officials:
- The President of the Republic
- Representative of the Ministry of Interior and Justice
- Representative of the National Narcotics Council
- Representative of the Ministry of Finance
- Representative of the Ministry of Tourism
Decisions of the Board of Directors are made by the majority vote. The Commission is in charge of approval and monitoring of gambling operations. The list of the Commission's other duties includes:
- Monitoring compliance with the law
- Issues and extension of licenses
- Imposing fines and other punishments
- Endorsement or rejection of bills on gambling
- Certification and authorisation of various equipment on platforms
- Compiling registers
- Filing an annual operations report, etc
The law also requires a National Inspection that will deal with technical issues, monitoring and control of the casinos, bingo halls and slot machines. This agency examines everything that is associated with gambling establishments, maintains a dossier on operators, a register of legal platforms as well as a register of personnel engaged in the relevant activities. Casinos, bingo halls and slot machines are the main trends that the system of the Venezuelan gaming legislation is based upon. It can be seen from the name of the main law that was passed in 1997. National Superintendence of Equestrian Activities (Superintendencia Nacional de Actividades Hípicas) deals with horse races. Lotteries are regulated by the National Commission of Lotteries.
An operator wishing to apply for a license must comply with the following requirements:
- The company must operate as a joint-stock company
- The company's activities are to run a casino or a gambling hall
- The share of foreign capital must not exceed 80%
A casino operator must confirm that the company has an investment of at least 300,000 tax units and operating capital of 200,000 tax units. The unit is defined by the Tax Code. The corresponding amount of capital is confirmed at the beginning of each year. Licenses are not to be transferred to third parties. Licenses are valid for 10 years with a possibility of extension.
Other requirements for gambling platforms
A casino must be located inside a five-star hotel with over 200 rooms. A bingo hall can be located in a hotel with three to five stars or on another platform indicated by the Commission. The hotels have to be located in tourist areas. Casinos must also have their own internal regulations that include:
- Preset denomination for all games
- Detailed rules for each game featured
- Results and statistics for players, where mathematical expectation for each party is examined For slot machines - the percentage of programmed theoretical value. It has to be at least 80% of all bets that were ever placed in the slot machine
- The establishment's responsibility before the players
The rules must be published in official languages of Venezuela plus two other languages. English must be included. The rules are to be posted in a visible spot.
Casinos pay taxes in the amount of 10% from the total revenue. Bingo halls pay 12% of the profits after the deduction of the winnings. At the same time the total amount of prizes paid out must be at least 70% of the hall's overall proceeds. In addition to this, the operators pay royalties each month in the amount of 40 tax units for each table and 10 units for each slot machine.