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Betting in Ecuador

Published on: 09/09/2013

Ecuador was part of the Spanish colonial empire: it became independent in 1830, and is now a presentational republic. To its west lies the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean, and bordering it on the north is Columbia, while to the south and east is Peru. It was seen as one of the most progressive and lenient areas for gambling in the whole of South America. In 2010 there was a survey undertaken, in attempt to ascertain the number of active gambling establishments in the country. The figure arrived at was 160 – a surprisingly large number for a country of its size. The economic consequences of this were impressive, as the income was heavily taxed, and 25,000 workers had secure employment.

Liberal gambling laws were established in Ecuador over half a century ago, which led to a renaissance in all kinds of gaming and betting. Bingo halls, Lotteries, casinos – they all sprang up almost overnight, fuelled by the legalisation. The population had always gambled of course, but before it was legalised this was usually restricted to small card tournaments in local cafes. Perhaps because of the scorching climate (the country is of course right on the equator) dog and horse racing have never been part of the people’s passion.

The country could lay claim to six luxury casinos, each part of affluent five star hotels. Many claimed the splendour of these casinos rivalled even those of Las Vegas. Some of those hotels were the Casino and the Hilton Hotel, the Casino Colon Quito and also the Best Western Hotel Plaza Hotel. Of course these were all aimed at affluent tourists, but anyone could access them, provided they paid a hefty entry fee!

The Ecuadorians have always been passionate about sports. Like many countries their number one sport is football, for which they have a fervent love. Despite the open legislation for gambling there are unfortunately a large number of unlicensed betting centres, which are operating illegally. These places have been known to lure in tourists, so please be careful when visiting the country. It is easy to obtain a list and location of all the registered and legal casinos, bingo halls, and lottery vendors.

For many years it was casinos and football betting that dominated the gambling scene in Ecuador. The lottery, and some other games had some stake of the action, but they remained largely peripheral. Things began to change in 2008 however, when Ecuador hosted the prestigious Latin American Poker Tour. This was indication that the population had rediscovered card games. Poker, blackjack, and other games, which for many years had been relegated to smaller gaming halls, and played mostly by the older generations, were being rediscovered by the youth of Ecuador. Texas Hold’em and Oasis Stud Poker were suddenly extremely fashionable – with Caribbean Stud Poker somehow inspiring a fascination with the local people. As with all their sports and gambling, the Ecuadorians took their newly adopted card games extremely seriously, and it wasn’t long before their zeal was rewarded. One Carlos “El Matador” Mortensen, a native, had the honour to be crowned champion at the World Poker Tour, and the much feted World Series of Poker.

After years of liberal and relaxed gambling legislation, in 2010 Rafael Correa, the Left wing President of Ecuador stated that he had plans to close down many casinos. His opinion was that they were all involved in profligate money laundering activities. He initiated a referendum, allowing the people to have a say in the future of the casinos. Before the referendum had even taken place however, the police instigated a mass closure of more than 50 casinos and online gambling sites. The results of the referendum did nothing to curtail these actions, and all remaining casinos were given a mere six months to shut down voluntarily, or forcefully.

Many lament the end of the good times in Ecuador. While some claim that the closure of the casinos has seen a drop in organised crime, there are those who wish they could still play at their local casinos. Those wishing to gamble now in the country are forced to do so online, and on sites hosted abroad. Such was the thoroughness of Rafael Correa’s closures that there are no indigenous online Ecuadorian gambling sites.

Published on: 09/09/2013 © Bet Bind