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Puerto Rico is Getting Ready to Legalize Sports Betting

Publish: 11.04.2019

Puerto Rico could be the latest U.S. territory to make wagering on sports legal after the governor Ricardo Rossello announced his plans to introduce a piece of legislation whose aim would be to bring online and land-based sports betting to this Caribbean island.

Speaking about his project. Rossello said the industry had the potential to turn Puerto Rico into a state-of-the-art jurisdiction, which would allow the establishment of a new market, with a positive effect on the local economy.

The Island Wants in on the Action

Rossello explained that legislators had worked on aggressive legislation that would enable the island to be marketed nationally and internationally as an attractive destination for the millions of people who bet on sporting events.

According to a recently published study, the legalisation of sports betting in Puerto Rico could bring in from $44 million to $66 million every year, while another study claims this amount goes up to $87 million on a yearly level.

However, the proposal will have a difficult task of passing the legislature, as similar proposals have been rejected before. Possibly the biggest opponent of any new sports betting bill is The Association of Hotels and Tourism of Puerto Rico (PRHTA), whose president, Pablo Torres, claimed on several occasions the new piece of legislation would have a dire effect on hotel casinos and their revenue.

In May last year, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), ending the federal ban on sports betting that had been in force since 1992. This decision allowed the states to decide whether they want to make wagering on sports legal or not but has also given this right to the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico.

The first move towards the legalization of sports betting was made by the Puerto Rican Senator Jose Nadal Powers, who introduced Senate Resolution 756. The aim of this resolution was to explore the possibilities that sports betting could bring.

Legalization Could Make a Significant Impact

Representative Nestor Alonso Vega made the first concrete steps in November last year, after presenting two separate proposals. Vega claims the legalization of sports betting could bring up to $20 million to state coffers per year, through tax revenue.

According to governor Rossello, Vega will be responsible for drafting the new bill, which will not be limited to sports betting, as it will also allow betting on fantasy leagues and eSports.

If adopted into law, the new piece of legislation would create a new Betting Commission, following the model of other states that have already legalized sports betting. The Betting Commission will be comprised of seven members from the public and private sector. The bill would introduce a 6% tax on revenue for land-based operations, and 11% for online.

At this moment, Puerto Rico has a large sports betting black market. Estimates claim that small illegal betting centres get up to $5,000 in bets on a daily basis, with that number going up to $20,000 for larger operations. Puerto Ricans love to bet on American sports, with the NBA being probably the most popular among bettors.

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