Once known as being a popular gambling hotspot, Ecuador benefited from liberal gambling laws and regulations that were put into place around fifty years ago. The country was home to many casinos and even a handful of luxury casino hotels. In fact, some people were so impressed by the country’s luxury gambling, that many said the casino hotels were better than those in Las Vegas. However, that all changed in 2011 when the government declared gambling illegal. Since then, all casino and hotel casinos have shut down.
But why was there this big shift in the law towards gambling? As well as gambling being highly popular, money laundering and other forms of fraud and corruption were also prevalent in the country. The government realised that something had to be done, and the Ecuadorian president, Rafael Corra proposed that all businesses that benefited through gambling should be shut down. This was then taken to a referendum, and the people of Ecuador voted to make gambling completely illegal.
This huge decision wasn’t without controversy, though, as there were many protests by all the gambling companies. They said that they were being treated unfairly, especially as they were given just six months to completely shut down. It also increased the country’s unemployment figures as around 25,000 casino staff were put out of work. But, on the whole, most of the Ecuadorian population seemed happy with the outcome of the referendum.
However, even though it is now illegal to gamble in person, online gambling is not regulated, so lots of Ecuadorians simply place their bets online. Even though there are no longer any gambling sites that are licensed in the country, there is nothing stopping people accessing foreign gambling websites.
Historically, Ecuadorians preferred to bet in casinos and on football. While gambling was still legal, there were many licensed betting centres where people could bet on a wide range of sports. Even though there was a great choice of licensed places to bet, there was still a lot of unlicensed centres, which was one of the deciding factors to go forward with a referendum.
As well as casinos and sports betting, the lottery was also popular as well but not to the same extent. These three gambling methods were certainly the most profitable in the country for years, but things changed in 2008 when the country hosted the Latin American Poker Tour. After this big event, betting in card games such as Blackjack and poker dramatically increased, especially in the younger generations who had once seen these as games for the elderly. These games were now very popular and became a large part of Ecuador’s gambling culture.
Since the referendum in 2011, though, and gambling has dried up throughout the country. Online gambling is still fairly popular, but not to the same level that casinos and betting centres once were. And this doesn’t look like it will change anytime soon – the laws that make gambling illegal are set to be in place for some time to come yet!