1 July 2022
SoloAzar Exclusive

´One of the urgent challenges that we will seek as an association is to contribute to the legislative debate regarding online gaming´-Juan Francisco Muñoz, ACCJ

(Santiago de Chile, SoloAzar Exclusive).- On May 30, the board of directors of the Chilean Association of Gaming Casinos appointed Juan Francisco Muñoz Venturelli as interim president of the guild. In a dialogue with SoloAzar, Muñoz commented on details about the position and the challenges he faces in his new role.

As interim president, Juan Francisco Muñoz's first objective will be to collaborate with the authorities and partners to reactivate the casino industry after the long closure that affected it as a result of the pandemic.

How have you been received in office?

I have been very well received by all associates. I am working internally and my permanent position is the corporate general management of Marina del Sol. I know closely and respect the work that the ACCJ has carried out since its inception. The objectives that the casino law is establishing, in terms of employment, tourism, regional collection, among others, have been fully met, it is a successful law that today poses new challenges for us as an association, which we are very happy to support and lead, as well as the contest process that we are currently carrying out to elect the best candidate for the permanent presidency of the guild.

What will be the biggest challenges you will face as you lead the Chilean Association of Casinos?

As a union, we have a great challenge in the face of the increase in online betting, which today is outside the current regulatory framework, that is, they are illegal, they operate outside the law. In this sense, its operations generate concern in the industry, since they represent dishonest competition, but mostly a great risk for society. Indeed, the law and regulation in Chile expressly authorizes this business subject to a series of controls that ensure the quality of the game -without cheating- control of access to minors, control of gambling addiction, money laundering of drug trafficking or others and the payment of the respective specific taxes, which are of national, regional and communal benefit. All this does not exist in the current operation of the online business.

Authorized casinos have adhered to the law, that is, we have not participated in the online business, waiting for there to be a regulatory framework. In Chile, only games of chance, physical or online, are allowed by specific provisions such as Polla, la Lotería de Concepción, the race-tracks and casinos under Law 19,995. Any other activity is expressly prohibited by the Civil Code (art 1466) and the Penal Code (articles 275 et seq.). Undoubtedly, the situation of organizations that have gone ahead and started operations illegally is one of the issues that must be addressed at the legislative level.

A regulatory system that establishes a framework that provides security and guarantees to both providers and users is urgently required. The ACCJ will seek to be a contribution in the legislative debate, so that a fair and legal competition framework for online gambling is established, as well as in support of the regulator's oversight work.

How do you see the gaming sector in the country?

We were hit hard by the pandemic, but today we see a strong industrystarting to recover. Gambling casinos closed on March 18, 2020 and partially reopened in November, following the Step by Step plan. Gross gaming revenue fell 75% in 2020. The pandemic continued to limit operations in 2021 and gaming revenue was 25% below 2019. Due to health restrictions, casinos were closed for 17 months, a period that represents 10% of the validity of a concession. Casinos were unable to offer remote gaming, despite a proposal being made to the authority in 2019, but current illegal operators did.

As a regulated casino industry, we had a rebound in 2021, starting in the second half, when sanitary restrictions were relaxed, and the figures are similar to those of 2019 – which, in any case, showed a slight drop (close to 5 %) compared to 2018. According to figures from the Superintendency of Gaming Casinos (SCJ), a total of $89,672 million in taxes were contributed throughout 2021. On the other hand, the tax contribution received during the year 2021 meant $41,262 million paid to the communes and regional governments where the physical casinos regulated by the SCJ are located, this under the specific gaming tax.

During the first quarter of 2022, the tax contribution of gaming casinos authorized by Law No. 19,995 reached $42,682 million in the first quarter of 2022, according to figures from the Superintendency of Gaming Casinos (SCJ). The collection is distributed in $19,331 million paid by the authorized casinos to the communes and regional governments in which they are located, $18,392 million in gaming VAT and $4,960 million in income tax.

The results for the first quarter of 2022 maintain the recovery after the effects of the pandemic and are 6.4% below those observed prior to the pandemic, for the same period in 2019. None of this is reported by current online operator.

What is the main short-term objective of the Association? And in the long term?

The first objective in the short and long term will be to collaborate with the authorities and partners to keep the industry active and continue the recovery trend after the first two years of the pandemic. We are the only national industry that contributes with its taxes directly to the territorial development of the cities and towns of which we are a part, which is why it is key to continue with the recovery. It is also worth noting the maintenance of jobs, before, during and after the pandemic. The industry was very serious about this and will continue to be.

And as I explained before, one of the urgent challenges that we will seek as an association will be to be a contribution to the legislative debate on online gambling, within the current regulations. We hope that the will of the legislators is to move forward in an agile and informed manner, in order to have a regulation as soon as possible, especially given the growing increase in online betting in our country and the aforementioned risks. Likewise, support the competent authority in the persecution of the current operators that violate the law, even with advertising.