Puerto Rico Sports Betting Amendment Shuns Trend, Requires In-Person Sportsbook Registration

Puerto Rico lawmakers appear to be going in the opposite direction as their peers. During a year in which casinos and sportsbooks have been hard hit by COVID-19 restrictions, and it’s become clear that mobile/online wagering — with remote registration — is the overwhelming driver of sportsbook handle, outgoing Puerto Rico Gov. Rico Wanda Vázquez Garced amended and last week signed a Senate bill that now requires customers to register in person to establish a online/mobile sports betting account.

The change means when sports betting operators go live, customers will have to physically visit a brick-and-mortar sportsbook or casino locations to register for an account, as opposed to being able to register from a mobile device or computer. According to the San Juan Daily Star, the change was made to help prevent money laundering.

Operators might disagree, as most argue that the “know your customer” programs used to vet online accounts is far more comprehensive than seeing a bettor in person and reviewing documents. But lawmakers, or the ex-governor, at least, in Puerto Rico appear to believe that requiring individuals to appear in person will better allow operators to identify the potential for shady dealings.

Sports betting first legalized in 2019

“While there are advantages to having mobile registration, Puerto Rico is a jurisdictions that makes sense because of the regulatory framework,” said Brendan Bussmann, partner and director of government affairs for consultant Global Market Advisors. “Sports betting operators should be held to the same standard as the casino operators in the market in terms of licensure and compliance. The in-person requirement may be one of the handful of things that ensures that standard.”

Sports betting was initially legalized in Puerto Rico in July 2019, and the gaming commission along with consultant Gaming Laboratories, Inc. rolled out proposed regulations in 2020. Since then, the process has been complicated and slow.

The amendment, PS 1534, also allows for betting on “non-sports” events, which should mean that wagering on events like the Oscars, Heisman Trophy, and other events would be allowed. Betting on eSports is also now legal under the new law.

“Project 1534 amends the law in some aspects that needed to be changed,” Executive Director of the Gaming Commission, José Maymó Azize told local newspaper Primera Hora, according to SBC Americas. “The most significant change is the fact that under the original law, players could register online and in person. Now, with this amendment, the first registration is required to be in person.”

Gaming is big business in Puerto Rico and is part of the fabric of the country in a different way than it is in the U.S. Brick-and-mortar facilities could be available in Puerto Rico everywhere from San Juan’s famed Hipodrom Camarero to corporate casinos to your local corner store or hotels.

Key sports betting operators are already prepping for legal sports betting Puerto Rico — in mid-December, FanDuel announced a partnership with the CAGE Companies that would ultimately give FanDuel market access to operate sportsbooks throughout the the Caribbean, including in Puerto Rico, and in South America.

The trend in the industry has been to roll back in-person registration in states that are already legal, while those considering sports betting are more open to embracing remote registration.

Beginning in June, Illinois Gov. J.B. Prtitzker suspended that state’s in-person registration requirement as a way to keep bettors home, and out of casinos. Despite the closures or limited capacity allowed at Illinois casinos last year, sports betting handle and revenue continue to grow. And on New Year’s Day, the in-person requirement in Iowa sunset and patrons there can now register digitally.

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