According to a 1947 law, gambling halls and casinos are supposed to be illegal in Mexico. However, hundreds of them exist and former President Vincente Fox was given powers by the courts to authorize licensing in order to create revenues through taxes as well as bolster the tourist trade.
Current president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador made no secret of his anti-gambling stance when he ran for and won the presidency, and has not personally authorized or issued any new licenses since he took office on December 1, 2018. In September of the next year, he re-affirmed his stance against issuing any new licenses in a gesture that was widely seen as an effort to reassure the Catholic church that he was on its side on the issue.
Casino Opposition Increased After Fire
The church and specifically Cardinal Rogelio Cabrera, head of the Mexican Episcopate, strengthened opposition to casino gambling after about 25 gunmen, purportedly members of the Los Zetas drug cartel stormed the Casino Royale in Monterrey, Nuevo León, Mexico. The men doused the casino in flammable liquids and lit it on fire trapping over 50 people inside. At least 50 people were killed in the tragedy.
At a recent press conference, the president stated that his government will not only refrain from issuing any new licenses but will also revoke any that may have been granted in the last four years. Mexican presidents are limited to a single six-year term.
At the presser, López Obrador declared he would request a report from the head of the Secretariat for Home Affairs, Adán Augusto López Hernández in order to take control of the current process for issuing licenses.
Prior to leaving office in 2005, the former Secretariat issued more than 750 licenses to gaming parlors across the country.
The president stated in reply to a reporter’s question about licensing and an upcoming casino industry conference: “Casinos should not be opened, we are not giving permission to open casinos. We are not. And I am going to ask the Secretariat for Home Affairs for a report because, if there is a new license, it is canceled, because the instruction is not to deliver any license.”
Licensing Process “Inadequate”?
It’s unclear if López Obrador will follow through on his threat to jerk existing licenses so far into his term. He had earlier asked Olga Sánchez Cordero, a prior Secretary of Home Affairs whether or not licenses issued under the previous administration had been under a lawful process. Obrador has stated in the past the process was “inadequate”.
Some legal scholars have differed on the legislative appendix process used to authorize deviance from earlier laws that specifically outlawed casino operations but in the 2000s many lawmakers were behind efforts to bring casino gambling to major coastal resort hotels. In recent years, some state governors have taken it upon themselves to issue more local licenses.
There is no unified federal framework for casino legislation, anti-money laundering controls, or even a unified tax code across the country. Online gambling is authorized loosely although there are no laws specifically authorizing it.
According to Thompson Reuters Law Guides: “Land-based casinos and online gaming are permitted. In Mexico, there are 36 land-based permit holders that are, or could be, allowed to operate online gaming.”
Source: President says he will revoke all casino licenses granted over the last four years, G3 Newswire, March 20, 2023