Posted on: November 23, 2022, 08:21h. 

Last updated on: November 23, 2022, 09:48h.

Gaming operators in Paraguay claim they would like nothing more than to help the country prevent money laundering. However, they contend current financial and gaming regulations stop them.

Presidency of the Republic of Paraguay
Paraguay’s flag flies outside the Presidency of the Republic of Paraguay, the official seat of the government. The country’s gaming operators welcome the opportunity to combat money laundering, but insist existing regulations make it impossible. (Image: Agencias CMA)

Gaming industry groups got together yesterday for their Fifth Conversation on Gambling reunion. Among the participants were the Paraguayan Chamber of Gambling, the Association of Gambling Operators and the Association of Gambling Entrepreneurs. Local and international businessmen and specialists also participated.

The gathering marks an annual affair designed to further refine gambling activity in Paraguay and to help establish rules and parameters. Despite the importance of the meeting, no one showed up from the National Gaming Commission (Conajzar, for its Spanish acronym), the country’s gaming regulator.

Time To Clean Up Gambling

One of the highlights of the day was the discussion on money laundering and the need for the industry to clean up its image. Several representatives acknowledged a willingness to contribute to that fight, but said they can’t because the government makes it virtually impossible.

Luis Mario Rojas, a gaming industry consultant in attendance, echoed the sentiment. He went a step further, stressing that Conajzar, per its own policies, does not consider it necessary for companies to be accountable to the regulator in relation to the prevention of money laundering.

The absence of Conajzar, to many participants, spoke volumes about the regulator’s priorities. Even representatives from the country’s Secretariat for the Prevention of Money Laundering attended the meeting.

Several former Conajzar-tied individuals, including former boss José Antonio Ortiz Báez, faced prosecution over shady dealings. A gaming operator with a questionable past and almost no credentials received a license to install machines where the law prohibits them.

This dilemma of how to prevent money laundering through gaming in Paraguay has been open for almost a decade, and the subject has had time before the National Congress. It even appeared in a conversation involving an evaluation committee of the Financial Action Task Force of Latin America (Gafilat, for its Spanish acronym).

Those discussions opened the door for operators to work with the National Development Bank for the payment of royalties to Conajzar and other obligations. However, they still cannot work with private banks.

Conajzar “Overwhelmed”

Conajzar said it couldn’t send any representatives because it is “overwhelmed” with work. That’s the same reason it has used to explain why it hasn’t been able to update the mandatory list of licensed gaming companies on its website, and why it can’t find the names of the people involved with those companies.

It’s also why it has taken longer than expected to introduce new regulations for the operation of slot machines. The government passed new legislation six months ago, yet there has been virtually no progress.

In addition, it’s been part of the explanation for a slow conclusion to the country’s sports betting tender process. The concession ultimately went to the incumbent, Daruma Sam and its Apostala brand, which will retain exclusivity for another five years.