According to a 1947 law, gambling halls and casinos are said to be illegal in Mexico. However, there are hundreds of them, and the courts gave former President Vincente Fox the power to approve licenses to generate revenue through taxes and boost tourism.
The 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 approved or issued any new licenses since taking office on December 1, 2018. In September of the next, he reiterated his stance against issuing new licenses in a gesture widely seen as an attempt to reassure the Catholic Church that he was with them on the issue.
Casino opposition surges after fire
The Church, and in particular Cardinal Rogelio Cabrera, head of the Mexican Episcopate, stepped up opposition to casino gambling after about 25 gunmen believed to be members of the Los Zetas drug cartel stormed the church. Royal Casino in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico. The men doused the casino with flammable liquids and set it on fire, trapping more than 50 people inside. At least 50 people died in the tragedy.
In a recent press conference, the President stated that his administration will not only stop issuing new licenses but will also revoke those that have been issued in the last four years. Mexican presidents are limited to six-year terms.
At a press conference, López Obrador stated that he would request a report from the head of the Interior Ministry, Adán Augusto López Hernández, in order to take control of the ongoing approval procedures.
Before leaving office in 2005 the former secretary more than 750 licenses issued in arcades across the country.
The President was responding to a reporter’s question about licensing and an upcoming conference from the casino industry: “Casinos should not open, we do not give permission to open casinos. We are not. And I will request a report from the Home Office because if there is a new license it will be canceled because the instruction is not to provide a license.
“Inadequate” Approval Process?
It is unclear whether López Obrador will carry out his threat to revoke existing licenses during his tenure so far. Earlier, he had asked Olga Sánchez Cordero, a former interior minister, whether or not the licenses issued under the previous government had been subject to a judicial process. Obrador has said in the past that the process is “inadequate”.
Some legal scholars have grappled with the legislative process used to authorize derogations from previous laws that specifically prohibited casinos from operating, but in the 2000s many legislators stood behind efforts to open casino gaming to the public. In recent years, some governors have taken it upon themselves to issue more local licenses.
There is no uniform federal framework for casino laws, money laundering controls, or even a uniform tax law across the country. Online gambling is allowed freely, although there are no laws expressly authorizing them.
Accordingly Thompson Reuters Legal Guides: “Land-based casinos and online games are allowed. There are 36 land-based license holders in Mexico that are or may be licensed to engage in online gambling.”
Spring: The President says he will revoke all casino licenses granted in the last four yearsG3 Newswire, March 20, 2023