Puerto Rico Sports Betting Legalized by Outgoing Governor

Puerto Rico Sports Betting Legalized by Outgoing Governor

Puerto Rico has been in turmoil for the past several weeks, leading to the resignation of Gov. Ricardo Rossello. Amid the protests in the U.S. territory, the island saw Rossello quietly sign a sports betting bill into law on July 29.

Rossello signed off on the Senate-approved Betting Committee Act on Monday, legalizing several different aspects of sports betting in Puerto Rico. Included in the sweeping act is sports betting, horse race betting, fantasy sports, and esports betting.

“By signing this law, we are getting ready to witness the potential it provides to transform Puerto Rico into a vanguard jurisdiction, while benefitting the local economy. With this legislation, the island will be able to market itself nationally and internationally as an attractive destination for sports betting events,” said Gov. Rossello via press release (Spanish).

How Puerto Ricans Can Bet

There are a number of casinos in Puerto Rico in which to bet, but only one racetrack. Even if those are inconvenient for citizens or tourists, the new laws also allow for off-track betting parlors and online betting.

Seeing how lucrative online and mobile betting has been for New Jersey and other states, the Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce, working with the Innovation Group, estimated that the government could see tax revenue of $29 million in 2020, $51 million in 2021. They estimated the market would reach $87 million by 2024.

According to a release obtained by Caribbean Business in April, Rossello's office said they expected sports betting to heavily impact the local economy:

“This industry has the potential to convert Puerto Rico into a jurisdiction in the vanguard of allowing the establishment of this new model, which will have a positive effect on our economy. We have worked on aggressive legislation that aspires at being able to market the island at the international and national levels as an attractive destination for the millions of people who bet on sports events.”

The bill does not allow for gambling on amateur sports, though it’s not completely clear if that includes college football and basketball, two of the most popular sports in the American market.

A fair amount of the revenue from betting will be put back into the community, specifically for sports and problem gamblers, per the same release from Rossello's office.

“(Betting revenue) will be distributed to help defray the retirement of pensioners and programs aimed at promoting youth sports; for services against gambling addiction; to offer better equipment to the police; to promote educational initiatives; and for administrative and implementation costs of the new Commission," he said.

Any timeline for implementation has likely gone out the window with the current situation unfolding in Puerto Rico, so Puerto Rican residents will have to keep an eye out for any further news on casinos to start offering sports betting.

Puerto Rican Gambling Oversight

With the legalization of sports betting comes the need for a committee to oversee the gambling. The namesake of the act, the newly created Gambling Commission, will be a board of seven officials and a commissioner who will serve a 10-year term at the position.

One interesting caveat of the board members is the fact that two of them must be representatives of the private sector. Another is the fact that they’ll have to make sure that any betting company’s geofencing prevents betting near religious locations as well as schools.

Brick-and-mortar casinos will pay a 7% tax on sports betting revenue while online sportsbooks will see a jump to 12% on revenue. Licensing fees will scale to the size of the operation, ranging anywhere from $2,500 to $50,000.

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