A Buenos Aires court has handed down Argentina's first conviction for illegal gambling since it was re-classified as a criminal offense in December 2016.
The latest conviction in Buenos Aires on an online casino operator has become a first in Argentina’s legal system.
The city prosecutor’s office has passed the country’s first-ever conviction for the crime of illegal gambling. The recipient of this historic sentence is Quinton Gregori Marshall, operator of online betting site Miljugadas.
Judge Rodolfo Ariza Clerici handed Marshall a three-year prison sentence after the court established that Miljugadas has been offering online wagers illegally to local bettors in Buenos Aires. Casinos, both web-based and brick-and-mortar, are banned in the autonomous capital.
Marshall, an Englishman who resides in the Misiones province, had his prison sentence suspended for his lack of criminal record. In exchange, officials will closely monitor Marshall’s movement for two years. In addition to those penalties, authorities will disable Miljugadas’ betting sites in Buenos Aires.
This monumental conviction came after lawmakers amended the Argentine Penal Code to consider clandestine gambling a federal crime, which would warrant a penalty of a prison sentence. According to one Argentine prosecutor, this decision will serve as a precedent to other efforts toward eradicating illegal gambling in the South American country.
Martin Lapadu, a public prosecutor, said:
“Es muy positivo haber logrado esta condena inédita en nuestro país. Un gran incentivo para ahondar la investigación de más de 180 casos de páginas web ilegales, para las que ya conseguimos más de 130 órdenes judiciales de bloqueos nacionales, además de la baja de dominios de internet como Spingol.com y Misionbet.com (It is very positive to have achieved this unprecedented sentence in our country. A great incentive to deepen the investigation of more than 180 cases of illegal websites, for which we already obtained more than 130 court orders of national blockades, in addition to the lowering of Internet domains such as Spingol.com and Mision.bet.com).”
Lapadu claimed that authorities have also blocked credit cards, virtual wallets, and bank accounts related to illegal gambling—freezing around ARS450 million worth of funds. He added that the city prosecutor’s office has successfully requested that the confiscated money be placed in a fund meant for responsible gaming in Argentina.
Illegal Gambling Now a Crime in Argentina
In December 2016, Argentina approved Law No. 27346 that modified parts of the country’s criminal law. One of those modifications included changing illegal gambling from being a mere violation to a criminal offense throughout Argentina. With that change, convictions for the crime of illegal gambling will guarantee a prison sentence.
The Penal Code Article 301 says:
“Será reprimido con prisión de tres (3) a seis (6) años el que explotare, administrare, operare o de cualquier manera organizare, por sí o a través de terceros, cualquier modalidad o sistema de captación de juegos de azar sin contar con la autorización pertinente emanada de la autoridad jurisdiccional competente (It will be repressed with imprisonment of three (3) to six (6) years who exploits, administers, operates or in any way organize, by itself or through third parties, any modality or system for capturing games of chance without having the pertinent authorization emanating from the competent jurisdictional authority).”
Lapadu added that classifying illegal gambling as a criminal act would help the government investigate and crack down on related illicit activities across the Argentine region.
The autonomous city of Buenos Aires, in particular, has aggressively hunted down illegal gambling operators—both online and offline—ever since the revision of Article 301. Gov. Maria Eugenia Vidal, together with the Comisión para la Prevención y Represión del Juego Ilegal (Commission for the Prevention and Suppression of Illegal Gambling) has conducted several surprise raids which they saw as an effective tool in battling the crime.