fter the members of the House of Representatives have reached consensus over how sports betting should be regulated, the Senate passed HR 2038 bill with amendments. The upper house called for the creation of a ‘conference committee’ integrated by both Representatives and Senators, aimed at assessing the measure before the ordinary session adjournment on Sunday.
The purpose of the legal initiative is to establish the “Law of the Gaming Commission of the Government of Puerto Rico” and puts in place new policies regarding betting on sporting events, eSports and fantasy sports. The new law allows for land-based and online sports betting, but will not permit bets on amateur sports.
Agreement was reached by two commissions of the House of Representatives after more than two months of negotiations. One of the main differences between the majority party Representatives Néstor Alonso Vega and Antonio Soto revolved around where sports betting would be allowed.
"The amendments are related to the 'background check' in a bank. That bank has to confirm that data, and what was included in the bill makes sure that additional requirements were requested so that when the player signs up he has that information for the bank to validate it. That's what was added to the project," Alonso explained on Tuesday.
Last week Soto said that sports betting legislation could be delayed as he objected to how the measures could have allowed, for a betting centre in each location where there is an electronic lottery terminal or in any “grocery store.” The language of the bill “opens the door to thousands of betting places on the island,” he said, according to G3 Newswire.
Vega, who had been charged by the executive branch to draft the new law, presented the latest draft to the Plenary this week. According to him, regulation was vital in order to regulate an industry which is growing rapidly in popularity via a newly established Gaming Commission. The newly regulated industry will create jobs and provide a boost to the local economy, he said.
However, language of the bill was amended so that while permits may be given to types businesses not specifically mentioned in the bill the gaming board will only be allowed to authorise licences to premises that have a business plan in place and meet with local health and safety requirements.
It also includes language that will prevent the new commission from authorising licences to entire sectors at once such as grocery stores and gas stations. At the same time it also states that no point of sale may be located less than 100 meters from a school, religious centre or public or private rehabilitation facility for addicts.
No specific cost for licences have been set as this will be left to the gaming commission to decide but the new measures establishes a minimum license fee for large scale sports betting operations at USD 50,000, but this stands at just USD 2,500 for individual sports betting points of sale. The law establishes a tax of 7 percent on income on bets made via land-based facilities and 12 percent online.
The new Gaming Commission will provide an institutional structure for already existing groups which oversee gambling in Puerto Rico including the Horse Racing Industry Administration as well as the Gaming Division of the Tourism Office of the Department of Economic Development. The new commission will be headed by a commissioner appointed for a term of 10 years and a board of seven members, including three from the private sector. This board, in turn, will also be helped by an advisory board made up of seven members.