Ecuador’s president proposes referendum to allow reopening of casinos and gambling halls

Industry

The president of Ecuador, Daniel Noboa, presented before the Constitutional Court a referendum project in which he proposes, among other points, to allow again the opening and operation of casinos, betting shops, and in-person gambling halls.

The proposal is part of a package of 11 questions that must be processed by the Ecuadorian Constitutional Court to be eventually voted on by the citizens. Among the consultations presented, question 11 asks the following:

“Do you agree with allowing the operation of casinos, gambling halls, betting shops, or businesses dedicated to the operation of games of chance, under the conditions detailed in the Annex to question 11?”.

It should be noted that the prohibition and elimination of in-person gambling halls was promoted by former president Rafael Correa, who also passed the measure through a popular consultation held on May 7, 2011.

At that time, the former president assured that the purpose of eliminating casinos was to create “a healthier environment” for young people and to prevent parents from losing income due to “the vice of gambling.”

As a result, the operation of casinos, gaming halls, or betting shops in Ecuador was typified as a crime in the Penal Code, approved in October 2013. According to the Code, persons who manage this type of business may face a prison sentence of one to three years, in addition to a fine of 100 to 150 basic salaries. 

Referendum procedure

According to Ecuadorian regulations, the referendum proposal must be processed by the Constitutional Court, which must decide whether the issues raised can be decided using direct democracy or whether an amendment to the Magna Carta is necessary.

For such analysis and the issuance of an opinion, the court has a term of 20 days. In case any amendment is necessary, the Executive may submit a new proposal.

In case the proposal is approved, the President will issue an executive decree and the National Electoral Council will have 60 days to start the electoral process. According to Ecuadorian media estimates, if there are no major obstacles, the referendum will be held by the end of March.

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