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8 min read

Gambling Laws in Mexico: Regulation and Legality

Nowadays Mexico is the country where gambling is permitted. However, this is possible only after getting corresponding permission from the competent Mexican authority. 

Mexico is on the list of countries where the gambling business has not yet developed in full force. Several laws are in effect yet on the territory that significantly limits the actions of gambling facilities. It happened because the Catholic Church has a significant influence on the legislative sphere. However, Mexico's casinos are steadily expanding and offering a great choice of gambling entertainment. In recent years, there has been an increase in the loyalty of the government towards gambling fans.

In Mexico, gambling history starts at the time of the Aztecs and is a part of culture from the 19th century after the French tried to colonize the country. In the reign of Porfirio Diaz for 30 years, all regions of the country had french-styled casinos. In the 1920s, gambling in the USA was banned and Americans began looking for convenient locations overseas, and Mexico became the proper place. The development of this business was rapid but short-lived. In 1935, he was outlawed by Mexican President Lazaro Cardenas. His decision was enshrined more than ten years afterward, — in 1948 by the Federal Games and Draws Law (Gaming Regulations). But the Mexicans were not frightened by the numerous restrictions, and underground gambling clubs flourished. In 1989, the Tijuana-based Caliente company received permission to accept sports betting. This decision was not global but was a step towards lifting the general legislative ban.

In the early 90s, discussions began in Mexico on the full legalization of gambling. The main supporters of legalization were the leaders of the tourism business. They hoped to attract gambling guests and create new jobs. Until 2006, gambling in Mexico was not as widespread as it is now. At that time, there were about 200 gambling establishments in Mexico, and now their number is about 800. At the same time, many casinos in the country are not legalized and operate without proper documents.


Regulation of casinos in Mexico


In 1947, President Miguel Aleman signed a law that gave the General Directorate of Games and Drawings the power to manage, authorize and control wagering games and lotteries. The department acts under the control of the Ministry of the Interior of Mexico (hereinafter referred to as the Ministry).

The ministry has issued appropriate amendments to the Reglamento de la ley federal de Juegos y Sorteos to regulate the operation of the country's virtual gambling establishments. According to these amendments, the Office is responsible for the regulation, partitioning, control, and monitoring of money-betting games and sweepstakes. An exception is the National Lottery, which is directly regulated by the Law.

The provisions of the Law are binding throughout Mexico (31 states and one federal district). On related issues in the field of gambling, the following norms apply the laws ‘On the protection of consumer rights’, ‘On the protection of personal data’, general health legislation, federal and local taxes.

The decision to authorize the distribution of any gambling not provided for in the articles of the Law or amendments is made privately by the Ministry of the Interior of Mexico.

The country lacks specific legal regulations that can be applied to online gambling establishments if they are offered by foreign operators. But the authorities view the direct activities of the cross-licensed casinos as illegal. The legislation of Mexico provides for the possibility of cooperation between licensees and companies registered in the country. Individuals have the right to make transactions not prohibited by Mexican law.

In 2015, the government prepared a new law, which turned out to be not so happy for those who like to play in online casinos. The essence of this law was that Mexican players who spend their free time playing in online casinos lost the ability to access all Internet resources. By law, gambling is allowed in the country in gambling establishments located exclusively on Mexican servers.

The casinos of Mexico allow you to satisfy the excitement of games such as blackjack, baccarat, roulette, and others, as well as horse racing, sports betting, bullfighting, and cockfighting, as well as simple and instant lotteries. Legal bookmakers do not accept bets on bullfights and cockfights, but visitors actively make bets among themselves. Slot machines are readily available in Mexico and can be found in all major cities of the country.

Recently in the Mexican city of Cancun a large entertainment complex ‘Playboy Club at The Palms Resort and Casino’ was opened. The construction and opening costs of the complex were approximately $7.5 million. The entertainment center includes a variety of restaurants, nightclubs, luxury boutiques, fitness and wellness centers, and of course a luxury casino with roulette, blackjack, and slot machines. The authorities are planning to create large casinos in Acapulco and Puerto Vallarta. Lotteries have been held in Mexico for several centuries. Instant lotteries have become especially popular lately, and GTECH recently won the right to open an online lottery server.


Are casinos legal in Mexico?


Internet gambling in Mexico can be considered legal or illegal depending on your perspective, which is very similar to the situation in the United States. The problem originally stems from the fact that the original Gambling Law was too general law and additional legislations were indeed required to address it. In 2004, an attempt was made to address this issue and the rules were changed in 2012 and 2013: to clarify issues related to the use of skill-based gaming machines and electronic games.

However, more legislative work is required from the government, especially when it comes to online casinos in Mexico, this fact is underscored by the sheer lack of a legal definition of what online gambling is in Mexican law.

Meanwhile, online gambling continues to grow and games such as online casinos are gaining in popularity and dominance in Mexican society and its economy.

Thus, it can be argued that in light of what has been the norm for many years, along with growing statistics on operators, income, tax deductions, and local job creation: gambling and online casinos, in particular, are legal and will not go anywhere.


The future of online casinos in Mexico


Mexico recently passed laws on gambling, both physical and online, so the market still has room to grow. While Internet access in many rural areas has limited the growth of online bookmakers, the advent of affordable smartphone technology has provided Mexican citizens with a cheaper way to access the Internet and the many game options it offers.

However, since the lines between legal and illegal gambling are still rather blurred, the country may need further clarification of its laws if it hopes to receive investment or advertising from larger gambling networks.

It should be noted that Mexican citizens also have the opportunity to gamble at online casinos in other countries, which is completely legal and will not violate any laws.

Almost all types of gambling in Mexico are regulated, except land-based card rooms (poker is only allowed in casinos) and fantasy sports (they are allowed, but there is no specific legislation). As in other Latin American countries, all gambling is popular in the country, but soccer betting is the most enthusiastic about it.

The main legislation governing gambling in Mexico is the Federal Gaming and Sweepstakes Act of 1947. After a long debate, full-fledged regulations came into force in 2004. While most gambling is technically illegal, multiple interpretations of the country's legal framework have given way to a thriving gambling sector.

Operators of online casinos and sportsbooks do not need to obtain an additional license, only authorization, and partnership with the land-based casino license holder.

Of course, it could be very beneficial for Mexico to loosen the restrictions if the Directorate General for Games and Sweepstakes decides to do this and starts issuing licenses — it would be possible to legalize a significant part of the income from online gambling and betting. At the moment, according to experts' forecasts, only $50 of the $450 million in total revenue comes from authorized operators.

At the moment, the list of gambling entertainment available to Mexicans and guests of the country is limited at the legislative level. According to the current regulations, casinos in Mexico are ready to offer visitors sports betting and horse racing, lotteries, and some table games. However, if you want to find other types of gambling entertainment is not difficult. Specialized sites, as well as underground establishments, are always ready to help avid gamblers. In this regard, the authorities are currently considering bills, thanks to which it will be possible to bring the gambling business out of the shadows. This would not only increase the flow of finance through taxes and provide players with the opportunity to play in Mexico's casinos without unnecessary worries, but also increase the tourist attraction of the region. According to Mexican laws, guests who have reached the age of 18 can visit gambling establishments.

You can understand the specifics of the gambling traditions of this country by studying reviews of the casinos in Mexico. Most visitors note that the lack of a modest assortment of games is compensated by affordable prices, a light, and pleasant atmosphere, courtesy of the staff, as well as excellent cuisine in themed Mexican hotels and catering establishments operating based on gambling houses.

Bets must be authorized by the Authority, which has the right to license only permitted gambling:

- machines

- roulette

- card games

- bingo

- bets on sports and casual events

- lottery.

Only Mexican legal entities can apply for a license.

A company that has a physical institution and permission to open a gambling establishment in Mexico (hereinafter referred to as the license holder) has the right to enter into partnerships with an unlicensed person (hereinafter referred to as the operator), including with foreigners.

The operator must comply with the laws of Mexico. A license holder and an operator with a permit issued in a foreign jurisdiction can organize a joint venture to open an online casino in Mexico.

Internet establishments in Mexico are prohibited from providing loans to visitors in any form. The license holder, operator, and participant in illegal sweepstakes are liable for violations of the law.

An application for a license is submitted to the Office along with a package of documents (the requirements and list are specified in the Law and the Regulations (Reglamento de la Ley Federal de Juegos y Sorteos). website of the Office.

The application is considered within 3 months. The department can grant or reject the request, and request additional documentation.

Each license issued is published on the official website of the Authority in the Permisos Autorizados de Juegos y Sorteos section


Protection of players in online casinos in Mexico


Gambling is strictly prohibited for minors (under 18). The Mexican authorities have determined the main purpose of the sphere of gambling - entertainment and recreation.

Online casinos should encourage users to play responsibly:

  • taking breaks from the gameplay
  • using betting limits
  • using self-exclusion if necessary
  • not playing in a state of depression.

The sites contain warnings about the emergence of gambling addiction and contacts of organizations where gambling addicts can contact.





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